With one statement, Sen. Andy Gardiner encapsulates the truth about Internet cafes

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During a meeting today of the Senate Gaming Committee (SGC), Senator Andy Gardiner was able to encapsulate the obvious truth about Internet sweepstakes cafes. 

Gardiner’s comments came after a representative for Internet sweepstakes cafes, which sell Internet time and offer slot-like video game promotions, urged the SGC to impose regulations on their operations, rather than ban them outright. Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current has the play-by-play:

“To eliminate, to get rid of all the 1,000 Internet cafes in the state of Florida, and you’d be left with loss. Loss of jobs, loss of tax revenues, loss of commercial leased space, loss of local revenue streams and donations to the community,” said Laurie Lee, lawyer for International Internet Technologies, a company that makes software used by Internet sweepstakes cafes.

The cafes have been a source of consternation for lawmakers in recent years. Bills to regulate or ban them have failed to make it through the Legislature, leaving local governments to craft their own ordinances, several of which are being challenged in court.

Social conservatives see the locales as seedy attractions for crime, but the café operators say they are a legitimate source of entertainment and not technically “gambling” since they operate under Florida’s game promotion laws. Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, took exception to that view.

“I’m not an attorney so I look at this a little bit differently. People are drawn to your location for something. I’m not sure its drawn for access to the Internet,” Gardiner told Lee. “Everybody else in this room tends to think what you provide is gambling.”

There it is — this entire issue in a nutshell. “People are drawn to your location for something. I’m not sure its drawn for access to the Internet.”

Internet sweepstakes cafes came into existence through cracks in the laws, if not outright violation of them. Do such businesses now deserve consideration as part a legitimate industry?

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.