Proposed Florida Gambling Bill Could Prohibit Online Poker
Across the United States, there are several state legislatures that are examining the issue of online gaming and poker. In Florida, however, a proposed bill may have the undue effect of shutting online poker down rather than opening it up to citizens of the Sunshine State.
Last week, the Florida State House of Representatives passed a bill that would close some loopholes in the state’s laws by a vote of 108-7. The bill, which was supposed to affect the multitude of internet cafes that have sprung up around the state, would prohibit “any electronic device” from accepting any form of money or special account numbers or codes that would allow players to receive extra credits or special prizes for participating. In the viewing of the proposed law, this would prohibit online gaming and poker from ever being created in the state of Florida.
When the statutes were established a few years ago, internet cafes sprung up by the hundreds. Supposedly there to offer people a gateway to the internet through purchasing internet time, these cafes instead became gambling outlets where people could play slot machine games or video poker and win prizes on their bets. It wasn’t until a scandal in the Florida government emerged that the legislators decided to attempt to close this loophole.
Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll became embroiled in a controversy stemming from what was supposed to be a charitable cause. Carroll’s involvement with the Allied Veterans of the World, a cause that established 65 “gaming centers” across the state of Florida to raise funds, came under scrutiny by law enforcement after it was alleged that only $6 million of a reported $260 million raised by the organization actually made it to support efforts for veterans. The scandal resulted in Carroll resigning as Lieutenant Governor last week and to the arrest of sixty people in the case with charges ranging from illegal gambling to extortion.
By attempting to close the loophole that allowed for the creation of these “internet cafes” in the state, Florida’s politicians may have actually made it more difficult for any passage of online gaming or poker, however. As the law is written, it would prohibit people from playing casino games or poker on an “electronic device,” of which a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone would be defined as. It would also prohibit players from receiving cash for their efforts or other prizes for winning at those games.
How the proposed law would affect current online poker operations is a bit of a gray area. Those online poker sites that still service U. S. customers may have to cut off Florida residents from the games (much like what occurred in Washington when that state passed its laws regarding online poker). Subscription sites such as ClubWPT may also have to discontinue its operations for residents of Florida due to their “sweepstakes” nature of business.
The proposed bill wouldn’t have any effect on the burgeoning Florida gambling scene. The bill does exclude those areas in Florida allowed to have gambling – casino properties, tribal reservations and racetracks – and allows for electronic gaming.
Those that would be affected by the shutdown of the “internet cafes” aren’t pleased about the proposed law. The Florida Times-Union’s Andrew Pantazi interviewed an unidentified employee of the Lucky Diamond Cyber Café about the proposed law but, instead of speaking for the business, the employee asked the patrons to respond. Pantazi was able to garner several strong opinions on the issue from those patrons.
“What’s the difference between the game room, the dog tracks and the poker room,” Roz King queried Pantazi. “I think if they’re going to shut these (internet cafes) down, they should shut those down too.” Another unidentified patron echoed those thoughts to Pantazi, stating, “I should be able to use my money however I want. In other words, they (Florida legislators) need to legalize it.”
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