ESTIMATED FLORIDA LOTTERY SALES FOR FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, WITH $1.41 BILLION OF THAT EXPECTED TO GO INTO THE STATE’S EDUCATIONAL ENHANCEMENT TRUST FUND
ESTIMATED PROFITS FOR ALLIED VETERANS OF THE WORLD FROM ALLEGED INTERNET CAFÉ GAMBLING, PUSHING THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE TO PASS AN INTERNET CAFÉ BAN IN THE 2013 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
ESTIMATED NUMBER OF ADULT ARCADES AND INTERNET CAFÉS FORCED TO CLOSE AS A RESULT OF THE NEW LAW
“I AM PROUD THAT WE SHUT DOWN THE ILLEGAL INTERNET CAFÉS IN FLORIDA. IT’S GOOD POLICY, AND I’M ONLY DISAPPOINTED IT TOOK THIS LONG TO DO IT.” – FLORIDA HOUSE SPEAKER WILL WEATHERFORD Sources: Associated Press, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times
A BAD BET
Don’t get us wrong: It isn’t particularly unusual for our iPhones to light up at 3 a.m. with angry texts demeaning Our Dumb State, especially when everyone’s been watching the ins and outs of a criminal trial built around a paranoid-and-profiling neighborhood watchman shooting a black teen in a gated community. We are the joke’s butt; we’ve lived here awhile.
But somewhere amid the images of attorneys in suits punching foam dummies on the ground to calculate scalp abrasions, a little tidbit proving just how bad things can – and often do – go in Florida when the frat-house legislature gets its kegs in a bind arose. We weren’t even sure what to make of it. Did Florida just outlaw all cellphones and computers with Internet capability? Because that’s what everybody who always likes to make fun of us was saying.
You probably remember the small-town justice hullaballoo that went down earlier this year in which a gang of 57 Internet café owners and operators were caught in a sting operation intended to prove that those strip-mall Wi-Fi grandma aggregators, were little more than low-rent Caesar’s Palaces. That’s fine. We’re willing to bet that some of the folks affiliated with the Allied Veterans of the World secret society operating many of these cafés might have been up to something fishy when the probe discovered that, of the more than $300 million Allied took in with its not-at-all alluring commercial Internet libraries, only $6 million went to charitable causes as it was supposed to. Also, we get that 57 arrests is probably past the threshold of “three is a trend,” and it was fun to see Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll packing her resignation boxes over her tenuous involvement with the organization. However, the way all of this is handled is through law enforcement, not necessarily the jerk of a Weatherford knee, always at the ready with a blanket generalization. You charge the criminals, not everyone in the business.
Which is precisely what attorneys – including Harvard professor and constitutional law attorney Alan Dershowitz (“last resort” friend of Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst and Claus von Bulow), who helped craft the argument – said in a lawsuit filed in a Miami-Dade circuit court just as an Internet café ban that sailed through this year’s legislature took effect. Actually, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Incredible Investments and its proprietor Consuelo Zapata, doesn’t stop at calling the law flawed for raiding and shuttering all Florida businesses with paid computer-use time – it claims that, by dint of its clumsy wording defining “slot machines” alone, the Florida legislature has banned just about any device capable of playing slots.
We read through the 40-page suit, and it does make for some entertaining semantics, especially the part where the legislature amends its existing regulation of slot machines to include basically all devices capable of luring you into spending money – like all of them do. So basically, because police have been remiss in enforcing the existing gambling laws – or, have lost court cases based on their wrongful enforcement – the state ham-fisted some verbiage into law without fully vetting its implications and called it a victory.
“They rushed to judgment and they took what they saw as a very specific problem and essentially criminalized everything,” attorney Justin Kaplan told the Tampa Bay Times, adding glibly that even the computers used to write the law in Tallahassee could be suspect: “The ones they used to draft this legislation are illegal.”
The suit has set off an avalanche of further litigation in other counties to prove how dumb your state leaders are, naming companies like Dave & Busters and Boomers because the enforcement of the gaming ban doesn’t seem to be affecting them yet. So, just to be safe, it might be time to clear your cache. Your number could come up next, especially if you’re paying your cable bill!