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Controversy Heats Up Over Florida Internet Cafe Laws

According to many analysts, the state of Florida is preparing for major casino gambling expansion over the next decade. Before the big gaming companies set foot in the Sunshine State, lawmakers have passed a law to clean up the existing gaming industry.

The law, which bans Internet cafes that allow gambling on computers inside the establishments, was passed last month. This month, lawmakers are rolling out flyers aimed at educating the public on the details of the law. The flyers will be posted, threatening patrons that if they continue to gamble in the Internet cafes, they risk criminal prosecution.

The flyers have not sat well with opponents of the new law. The threat of lawsuits against the state have been present since the law went into effect, and now opponents feel they have even more ammunition for those lawsuits.

"These flyers do not get to the core of our argument, which is that the law is too vague, and does not properly distinguish between legal and illegal forms of Internet cafes," said Margaret Reid, a patron at one of Florida's thousands of Internet cafes. "These cafes do not pay out in cash, so why are they illegal?"

That is a question that many people want answered. According to the new law, any cafe paying out their customers in cash or prizes, is considered illegal. The store owners contend that they allow customers to buy Internet time, and then have a predisposed number of winners for the games, similar to a lottery scratch-off ticket.

Legislators in Florida took quick action after a scandal rocked the state last month. It was learned that the Allied Veterans of the World charity ran a nearly $300 million illegal gambling operation. Almost six dozen arrests have been made in the case, with more possible in the coming weeks.

Florida is a target for the big Nevada-based gaming companies. Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, and International gaming giant Genting have all lobbied lawmakers to allow resort-style casinos in the state. While legislators are considering opening the gaming market to the Vegas-based companies, not progress has been made this session on a bill that would allow that type of gambling.

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