Florida Taking Steps Backwards Before Gambling Expansion

It is widely expected that over the course of the next few years, the state of Florida will enter the high-stakes world of regulated Vegas-style casinos. Before that expansion takes place, legislators are busy trying to clean up the current state of their gaming industry.

This week, the House will take up, and is expected to pass, a bill that will ban Internet cafes in the state. The cafes have become a prime source of frustration for law enforcement officials, and more recently became an embarrassment to the state.

Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll stepped down from her duties shortly after a scandal broke involving the charitable organization Allied Veterans of the World. While their mission statement stated that the organization was raising money, it has been determined that millions of dollars was embezzled from the charity. Over 50 people were arrested as part of the investigation, and at the center of the investigation were dozens of Internet gambling cafes.

“It’s unfortunate it took a scandal of this magnitude to get people to recognize what was going on with Internet cafes,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford. “I can’t speak to why the other chamber didn’t want to pass it. But I’m thankful that we’re getting it done now.”

Law enforcement agencies have had a difficult time getting any charges against Internet cafe owners to stick. The law has always been vague in Florida regarding the cafes. Most cafe owners claim they are operating inside the law with their facilities.

Over 1,000 cafes are said to be in operation in Florida. One of the largest reasons that lawmakers have been trying to get rid of the cafes is the future of land-based casinos in the Sunshine State.

Legislators are studying the effects that gambling expansion could have on all aspects of life in Florida. Analysts believe that when the study is complete, that legislators will begin moving towards a regulated gaming industry, much like in Nevada or New Jersey.

Florida has long been a target area for large gaming companies such as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts. Genting, a Malaysia-based gaming company, has already purchased the Miami Herald building, with plans to turn the facility into a Resorts World Miami, with space available on the second floor for a casino floor should the laws in the state change in the future.

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