As the Florida House prepares to vote on its bill to ban Internet cafes in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott told the Miami Herald editorial board Thursday that he had not made up his mind on whether to support it or not.
"Everything is on the table,'' Scott said, refusing to indicate whether he supports the ban that has emerged as the Legislature's swift response to the criminal investigation into the Allied Veterans of the World, a chain of Internet cafes.
Police have arrested 57 individuals affiliated with Allied Veterans and have charged them with illegal gambling, money laundering and racketeering. The $300 million for-profit operation allegedly donated only 2 percent of its proceeds to charity.
Legislators have quickly attempted to distance themselves from the fake charity, announcing they would donate thousands of dollars in contributions to legitimate veterans groups and other charities. According to a Herald/Times analysis, Allied Veterans and its operators and affiliates spent more than $1.4 million on candidates and committees in the last election cycle, most of it intended to influence the Florida Legislature.
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The Florida House raced to agenda a bill last week by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, that would clarify the state law to ensure that anyone operating electronic sweepstakes machines, adult arcades and maquinitas are illegal in Florida.
The bill clarifies that web-based gambling devices are illegal because they are deemed games of chance and not games of skill. Trujillo said he will ask lawmakers to adopt an amendment today that clarifies that promotional giveaways, like those offered by fast food restaurants or car dealers, and children's arcades will continue to be allowed in Florida.
The ban is expected to shut down an estimated 1,000 gaming centers that have operated electronic casino-like games disguised as a sweepstakes or arcade games.
The bill clarifies existing law by prohibiting electronic gambling devices for charitable promotions, updates the definition of slot machines to include network-based machines like those used in Internet cafes and bans machines intended to simulate casino games and slot machines.