Thrasher trumps critics of Internet cafe ban

TALLAHASSEE — Internet cafes are closer to going bust in the Sunshine State.

The Florida Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill to ban Internet cafes after overcoming a series of proposed amendments aimed at watering down the bill’s provision, including one that would let local governments allow establishments with fewer than 50 of the machines.

The bill has already passed in the House. It’s going immediately to Gov. Rick Scott for signature.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the Senate bill’s sponsor, won through on a 36-4 vote over the objections of senators who objected to the bill’s potential for closing senior arcades, popular gathering places for retired Floridians.

“This bill is about stopping illegal gambling in the state of Florida,” Thrasher said during debate.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Duval, criticized the bill as going too far after years of inaction by the Legislature.

“The Legislature could have done something long before now,” she said, adding that a bill including senior arcades will only hurt the people the arcades help the most.

Gibson and other Senate opponents recounting getting thousands of complaints from seniors fearing their social centers were going to be closed.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-DeSoto, however, said the bill will not shut down any legitimate business. If you’re not sure you’re legal, Galvano said, you’re probably not.

“If you’re operating in a gray area … many jurisdiction have found that’s illegal,” he said.

Thrasher agreed.

“It absolutely doesn’t close down any legitimate business that’s operating within the law,” he said.

“We don’t want to give seniors another reason to stay inside and not be socially active,” she said.


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