TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's Internet cafes will become illegal within the next week.
State lawmakers on Friday delivered to Gov. Rick Scott a bill that would ban the storefront gaming operations.
Scott, who was in Jacksonville on Friday, has until April 12 to sign the bill. The governor's office has already said that Scott supports the legislation, and Scott said he plans to sign it.
The ban takes effect immediately after Scott signs the bill.
Florida legislators voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the ban. It was a quick response to a scandal that led to dozens of arrests and the lieutenant governor's resignation last month.
The operations allow customers to play sweepstakes games that simulate slot machines. But the new law will also impact senior arcades around the state as well. That's because the bill bans arcades from handing out gift cards to winners.
Jacksonville Internet cafe owner Robin Rukab says she's not about to give up on her business and says lawsuits will more than likely be filed for Internet cafes to stay open.
"I invite Gov. Scott to come to our game room, my game room, and take a look at exactly what is going on here before he picks up his ink pen," Rukab said, "because he will find out that what he is hearing is not the case."
Rukab said the game rooms are legal, and the Legislature and governor are rushing to judgment. She can't believe that her business is being punished because of what others did.
By that, Rukab is referring to Allied Veterans of the World and the crackdown and arrests in its operations on tax evasion charges.
"He will be upsetting over a million voters in the next governor's race," Rukab said. "There are 1,000 to 1,500 sweepstakes rooms in Florida. There are hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are going to be affected. We are not talking about my businesses, we are talking about mortgages, electric bills, payroll security officers. Seven families in this business depends on this income just in this small game room."
One of those affected is Sasha Gordon, who will be out of a job.
"I won't have another job. I will be unemployed and will try looking somewhere else," Gordon said. "I'm in school, I have kids, and hunting for a job is really hard right now."
So what does Scott want to tell the owners who thought they had a legitimate cafe running, but instead will have people out of work?
"I think the House and Senate did the right thing," Scott said. "What they are going to stop is illegal gaming like what Allied Veterans was doing. They were involved in a multistate criminal conspiracy."
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