Arcade operators concerned over coins package

Confusion in Internet Cafe bill over use of coins, bills in amusement machines

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Amusement machine owners in Florida were uneasy Monday over legislation waiting for Governor Rick Scott's Signature.

Scott is expected to sign a bill banning Internet cafes before the end of the week, but amusement operators are concerned about other parts of the legislation.

Danny White has owned and worked on amusement machines all his life. First with his father, then taking over their small company in 1995.

Some coin-operated machines, also called a redemption machine, is legal because players have the expectations of winning something.

A claw machine that takes two quarters and then, depending on skill, offers a prize. White said his cost for the payout varies.

"Depending on what it is can range from a dollar to three dollars if it's a licensed product," said White.

But after the governor signs the ban on Internet cafes, prizes worth more than 75 cents from one of these machines will be illegal. Even more concerning to amusement operators is whether the machines can accept anything but coins.

The way the bill is written is clear:

"The simple reading of it says only use of coins," said Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami).

But nothing in legislation is ever that clear.

"Or if any court has ever found the use of dollar bills to be illegal under this statute," said Maria Sachs (D-Palm Beach).

So coins or no coins was the topic of lengthy debate on the Senate floor.

"There are conflicting appellate opinions right now," said Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine). "We're staying where we are."

That answer has amusement machine operators across the state on pins and needles, wondering if they will be out of business simply because their machines take dollar bills.

Scott has until Thursday to sign the legislation. He has indicated he will sign it, but he could also allow it to become law without his signature.

As to the confusion over coins or dollar bills, sponsors say it there is a problem, they can always fix it next year.

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