Florida poised to ban strip mall casinos despite outcry



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida lawmakers are moving ahead with a ban of strip mall casinos or Internet cafes despite protests that the ban could also shut down other businesses.

The Senate Rules Committee approved the ban on Tuesday and the legislation could go to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott later this week.

The committee approved the bill over the objections of players and owners of senior arcades.

"These are the seniors that fought and saved your country," said Gail Fontaine of the Florida Arcade Association.

Arcade operators contend the legislation is too broad and will put them out of business. Arcade players said the facilities give senior citizens a place to go.

Seniors argued they play skill games for pennies, not gambling machines for big bucks and many insist they never play the games at all.

"I go there by myself and I meet people. I talk. I have a custard. I have a hot cocoa," said Anita Silverman of Delray Beach.

The Legislature is feeling pressure to act in the wake of an investigation into the Allied Veterans of the World charity. It was accused of running a $290 million illegal gambling business that directed most of the proceeds into its owners' pockets.

"I think they are still going to be able to go to their arcades. The business people who have been operating those are going to have to look at what they've been doing," said Sen. John Thrasher.

Scott has said he would wait to see what the legislature decides before revealing whether or not he supports a ban on Internet cafes.