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New Florida law accidentally bans all computers, smartphones

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Please, Electronista, spare us your political bigotries and simply report the technical news. Florida may have problems, but its not half as badly run as California, which scores at or near the bottom in almost every measure of effective governance: deficits, poor schools, high crime rates, declining infrastructure, dreadful unemployment rates, etc.

    Those matter a heck of a lot more than laws that end up having overly broadly significance. No one is going to die due to a slot-machine law. California's so badly run, federal courts are forcing the state to release thousands of criminals. Bashing Florida isn't going to make California any less awful.

  1. Doodpants

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-15-11

    @Inkling: This is an article about a law that was actually passed in Florida, which has implications for anyone in that state who has to rely on internet caf├ęs for online access. What does any of that have to do with California? Perhaps it is you who is showing your political bigotries.

  1. pairof9s

    Senior User

    Joined: 01-03-08

    Agree w/ Doodpants...the title of this article shows its relevance to Electronista. The fact there is a law on the books in Florida banning computers and smartphones because of online gambling is on topic for this site. That Florida's govt shows its hypocrisy in allowing other forms of gambling while attempting to ban this type is just further verification of the ridiculous nature of the law and its authors. --- signed, Florida native

  1. buddhistMonkey

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-29-13

    ((( "Florida may have problems, but its not half as badly run as California..." )))

    You don't know anything about California. Now that we've replaced our buffoonish Republican Governor Schwarzenegger with Democrat Jerry Brown, California has a budget surplus this year for the first time in a decade, and things are moving in the right direction on all fronts once again. Unlike in Republican-run Florida.

  1. AppleTechSpot

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-27-13

    As a Florida resident I am not at all surprised. This current administration is beyond incompetent.

  1. Eldernorm

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-26-07

    The funny part here is that the law was so rushed and poorly worded that it made all computers illegal.

    the local sherrif should have raided the Goveners office and taken all the computers there under the new law, all government computers in fact. And arrested all the govt. officials authorizing their use (ps. not the clerks, their bosses)..

    Just a thought.

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    @buddhistMonkey: Just the facts: CA ran a $1.7B deficit and has over $127B in debt. FL is running a $0.5 surplus.

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-01-09


    That would require that Florida sheriffs not be incompetent morons themselves. When one aspect of the local political system gets screwed up, generally others do as well.

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