Gov. Rick Scott officially made internet cafés go kaput Wednesday afternoon, when he signed legislation that bans up to 1,000 internet gaming storefronts across the state.
-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll Has Resigned
The new law is in large part thanks to Allied Veterans, an internet café operator whose officials were arrested in March on racketeering charges after an investigation by the IRS and Secret Service.
Allied was accused of money laundering after the group allegedly used money from its nonprofit for personal gain and by basically lying about the exact amount of money it donated to charities (hint: It kept a lot more than it donated).
Authorities claim that the internet cafés' former president received more than $1.5 million while the group donated to charities only 2 percent of the $290 million it raised.
Scott signed the bill into law with a brief statement saying that lawmakers "did the right thing to crack down on illegal gaming operators."
His former lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, was forced to resign last month because of her connection with Allied.
When legislators got together to vote on the measure last week, the final tally was overwhelmingly in favor of passing the ban.
Those worried about this new law argue that it will likely bring an end to senior arcades, since the majority of the stores that the bill targets allow their customers to play sweepstakes games that simulate slot machines.
Just last week, the Florida Arcade Association wrote a letter to legislative leaders explaining that the ban will put cafés and arcades out of business.
Now, after hearing of Scott signing the bill, they say thousands will lose jobs.
"With the stroke of the governor's pen, thousands of jobs were lost today," said Florida Arcade Association President Gale Fontaine in response to the bill's becoming law.
"With all the effort that is put into this state to create jobs, it is unconscionable that the state is acting to put people in the unemployment line. We all recognize and support shutting down unscrupulous Internet cafés, but this new law throws out the proverbial baby with the bath water. The new law is spawning fear among business owners across the state because of its ambiguity and lack of clarity."
The law will now require arcade customers to use only coins or tokens instead of dollar bills to play a game. Florida Arcade Association argues that the law won't allow businesses the proper transition time to adhere to the law without feeling the effects negatively.