Fla. poised to ban Internet cafes despite outcry

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida lawmakers are moving ahead with a ban of Internet cafes despite protests that the ban could also shut down other businesses.

The Senate Rules Committee approved the ban on Tuesday and the legislation could go to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott later this week.

The committee approved the bill over the objections of players and owners of senior arcades. Arcade operators contend the legislation is too broad and will put them out of business. Arcade players say the facilities give senior citizens a place to go.

"These are the seniors that fought and saved your country," Gal Fontaine said.

"Don't lump us together with the Internet. We are not the Internet," arcade player Joan Subadino said.

The Legislature is feeling pressure to act in the wake of an investigation into the Allied Veterans of the World charity. It was accused of running a $290 million illegal gambling business that directed most of the proceeds into its owners' pockets.

Seniors say the arcades are more like social clubs than casinos.

"I go there by myself and I meet people. I talk. I have a custard. I have a hot cocoa," said Anita Silverman, of Delray Beach.

Sen. John Thrasher, the bill's sponsor, says the arcade patrons have nothing to fear. He says his legislation simply clarifies existing law, and if the arcades aren't breaking the law now, then they are in the clear.

"I think they are still going to be able to go to their arcades," Thrasher said. "The business people who have been operating those are going to have to look at what they've been doing."

The bill could be read on the Senate floor Thursday and voted on by Friday. The Internet cafe ban has already passed the Florida House.

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