updated 02:00 am EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
Poorly-worded bill was intended to outlaw Internet cafes, slot machines
The state of Florida, already the butt of many jokes because of its penchant for news-making citizens, reviled governor and incompetent state government has taken another one on the chin with the news that a poorly-worded law intended to ban Internet cafes and slot machines has overreached and declares any electronic device capable of playing a "game of chance" on the Internet to be illegal. The law is being challenged in court by an Internet cafe owner who was forced to shut down her business following a scandal involving the lieutenant governor.
Earlier this year, Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll was dragged into a scandal involving a charity she had consulted for that was shut down for being a front for an Internet gambling site. Carroll, who would have been aware of the deception, was forced to resign. The bill banning "any system or network of devices" that can be used in a "game of chance" was passed shortly thereafter. Attorneys for Consuelo Zapata, who owned an Internet cafe that had provided online access to migrant workers, tourists and others -- say the law is poorly-worded, overly-broad and "was passed in a frenzy fueled by distorted judgement in the wake" of the scandal.
Over 1,000 Internet cafes in Florida were closed after passage of the bill. The original purpose was to expand the traditional meaning of "slot machine" (normally associated with a physical device usually found in casinos) to include computers connected to the Internet in such cafes, as they could be used as digital equivalents and used to play bingo and other slots-type games that are mostly illegal in Florida. The full complaint from Zapata can be downloaded here.
Critics have pointed out that the state itself runs a lottery; that there are legal dog, horse and jai alai operations that engage in betting; and that Indian reservations are exempted from the law, allowing a number of casinos to operate in the state. Charity groups are allowed to organize "casino" events for fundraising, but the state has thus far resisted attempts by casino operators to set up state-licensed casinos and any online gambling operations.