Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge denies injunction sought in Internet cafe crackdown

TALLAHASSEE — A federal judge Tuesday rejected a request by two Broward County senior arcades to block key parts of a new law that stemmed from a statewide crackdown on Internet cafes.

U.S. District Judge James Cohn issued a 19-page order that denied a preliminary injunction sought by Boardwalk Brothers, Inc., and Play It Again FLA, LLC, which contended that the law was unconstitutional. In part, the arcades contended the law was vague and arbitrary and denied First Amendment rights of seniors who gather at the amusement arcades.

Cohn rejected those arguments and said the state had legitimate reasons for passing the law, which came after raids at Internet cafes that critics long contended were illegal gambling operations. While the law was aimed at Internet cafes, its restrictions also affected games offered at senior arcades — causing many to close.

"(The) state has a significant interest in proscribing the behavior regulated in the statute,'' Cohn wrote. "Plaintiffs have failed to articulate any interest they have which overrides the state's substantial interest in regulating gambling."

The arcades filed the lawsuit in Broward County circuit court in April, about a week after Gov. Rick Scott signed the changes (HB 155) into law. The case was later moved to federal court, with the arcades taking issue with parts of the law that, for example, sought to bar "casino-style games in which the outcome is determined by factors unpredictable by the player or games in which the player may not control the outcome of the game through skill."

"How can a police officer know what a casino-style game is when the Legislature has not, and cannot define it?'' the arcades argued in a motion seeking the preliminary injunction. "How can a police officer know what games or machines involve 'outcomes determined by factors unpredictable by the player.' How can a police officer determine whether a player 'may (or may not) control the outcome of the game through skill.' ''

Attorneys for the arcades also pointed to requirements in the law that said arcade machines would have to be operated by inserting coins and that severely limited the types of prizes that could be won.

But Cohn disputed that the law was unconstitutionally vague or that it would cause "irreparable injury" to the arcades. He also flatly rejected that it would violate First Amendment rights of association for seniors.

"Plaintiffs have failed to articulate how the statute prevents their patrons from associating with one another, given that the statute does not prevent senior citizens from congregating elsewhere if plaintiffs' businesses are closed,'' Cohn wrote. "Moreover, there is no evidence before the court that enforcement of the statute would force plaintiffs out of business and prevent patrons from associating at their establishments. Instead, the statute merely limits the types of games that might be offered. And even if the statute did force plaintiffs out of business, no citizen enjoys a constitutional right to play amusement games."

The Legislature rushed this spring to pass a law to shut down the Internet café industry, after law-enforcement raids across the state and the arrests of 57 people. Authorities alleged that the cafes — dubbed "storefront casinos" by critics — illegally operated computer games that were akin to slot machines.

The crackdown also led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had done consulting work for an organization that was at the center of the investigation.

Judge denies injunction sought in Internet cafe crackdown 06/04/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 8:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella's American Folk Art Cafe. Times files
  2. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  3. A buzz-worthy look at the Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup

    The Heater

    Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel is congratulated by Jose Altuve after scoring during the fifth inning of Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) TXMG170
  4. Florida, FSU try to ignore death threats, angry fans

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Frustration over uncharacteristically down seasons at Florida and Florida State has started to spill over from message boards and start crossing real-world lines.

    Fans watch the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.
  5. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]