After a gambling scandal rocked Florida last March, the Republican-dominated state legislature allied with Governor Rick Scott to pass reactionary laws which essentially prohibit all electronic devices with an internet connection.
Amid probes into a $300 million gambling operation fronted by Allied Veterans of the World, shockwaves were sent throughout the state reaching as high as the office of Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll.
Just one day following questioning about the relationship between her public relations firm and Allied Veterans of the World, Carroll chose to resign from office. This shocking revelation forced the legislature to act quickly.
However, in doing so, the Sunshine State managed to recklessly pass legislation that bans Internet cafes, as they provide Internet access that could potentially be used for gambling, as was the case in the initial scandal.
Now that the law is being enacted, many questions linger regarding the scope of the poorly written law.
CS/HB 155: Prohibition of Electronic Gambling Devices defines illegal slot machines as any "system or network of devices" that may be used in a game of chance.
Because online gambling is so easily accessible via a basic internet connection, it would seem that anyone using a computer or smartphone is essentially violating Florida law.
Since the legislation went into effect, over 1,000 Internet cafes were immediately shut down. Furthermore, the ban is also expected to directly affect adult amusement arcades that cater to senior citizens by offering games such as bingo on a regular basis.
Several well known franchises such as Dave & Buster’s and Boomers have also been put on notice, having been described by state attorneys as "gambling houses" and "public nuisances."
As a result of this overreaching piece of legislation, a lawsuit has been filed by Incredible Investments, LLC, an Internet café providing online services to migrant workers.
In the formal complaint against Florida State Attorney Katherine Rundle, the Miami law firm representing Incredible Investments, LLC, Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen, & Levine allege that, "the Florida Legislature rushed to pass broad-sweeping amendments to existing statutes that violate the United States Constitution in a frenzy fueled by distorted judgment in the wake of a scandal that included the Lieutenant Governor’s resignation."
The suit very clearly asserts that Internet cafes operate very similarly to the way pay phones once did, before the widespread proliferation of cell phones, and should therefore not be considered conduits to illegal activity.
The Internet café ban represents both the ineptitude of politicians that oftentimes occurs following a dramatic course of events, as well as the potential for abuse if the size of the government is not reigned in. The mere fact that the Florida state legislature was able to pass such broad amendments which essentially ban technology the representatives barely understand, with little difficulty, is great cause for alarm.
Furthermore, sweeping legislation that discriminates against small business owners because of an unrelated crime should shock all citizens and immediately be repealed.