Future for Internet cafes in Florida uncertain

Bill that would shut down cafes passed in House, now considered in Senate

OCALA, Fla. - A bill that would shut down Internet cafes in Florida passed in the House and is being considered in the Senate this week.

"I'm entitled to spend my money the way I want to spend it," said Ed Horner, who drives his golf cart to Palms Internet Cafe in Ocala six times a week.

"This is entertainment, with discretionary money that I can spend rather than leave it to my kids so they can have fun. I'm having fun," said Horner.

People there told Local 6 they visit the cafe to socialize, have fun and occasionally win a few dollars.

"What else can we do? I can't go put on a bathing suit and go down in the beach and stroll around," said JoAnn Hinderliter, of Dunnellon.

State Representative Dennis Baxley co-sponsored the bill, which passed in the House on Friday. He said Internet cafes are preying on people with gambling addictions.

"If you don't limit gaming to specific locations and you put it right there at them on every street corner, they will be in poverty, and we will have to deal with the social cost of that," said Baxley.

Baxley points to the corruption that shut down Allied Veterans of the World cafes across the state.

"We certainly follow the rules and we shouldn't be penalized because one person didn't follow correctly," said Felicia Burbank, manager of Palms Internet Cafe.

Horner said he's hoping Governor Rick Scott will not sign the bill into law.

"Number one, we won't vote for him again, that's for sure, and, secondly, he's taking enjoyment from people that I don't think he's entitled to do," said Horner.

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