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Arcade Operators Say 'Hands Off' As Lawmakers Rush To Ban Internet Cafes

The Florida Arcade Association wants lawmakers to remove language from a bill banning internet cafes that they say will hurt their industry.  The ban has already cleared the House and is making its way through the Senate. 

A group of senior arcade supports are traveling to Tallahassee to appear before the Senate committee that will take up the café bill Tuesday.

The Florida Arcade Association says unlike the computer  games that yield cash prizes in most internet cafes, their facilities have the kind of games found  in a Chuck-E-cheese, or Dave and Busters. People don’t win cash prizes, and game plays cost as little as eight cents.

“There are games like Monkey Land where Monkeys are in a tree and they throw little bombs to open squares. The most popular game for our seniors is called fruit genie," said  Association President Gale Fontaine.

The Association says it awarded gift cards worth more than more than $44 million dollars to places like Walmart and Publix last year. Bill authors say it’s not their intention to ban arcade-style games, but they’re concerned about creating loopholes that would give the internet café industry another way to spring up.

They’re also concerned about the value of some of the non-cash prizes. The legislature’s push to ban internet cafes comes in the wake of a multi-state fraud investigation into an internet cafe operator.  That investigation led to former Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll’s resignation.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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