Although a ban on the burgeoning Internet cafe gambling industry has been embraced by Gov. Rick Scott, sheriffs and prosecutors, a Florida Senate committee doesn't care that these businesses are illegal gambling enterprises preying on the poor and the elderly and wants merely to regulate them. Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, a supporter of Internet cafes, was callously indifferent to the legitimate concerns of law enforcement professionals and ridiculed their opposition, noting: "I guess there's a shortage of real crime out there. There's a need to create more so you can go ahead and prosecute it." Pinellas sheriff's deputies didn't seize 59 computers from a Dunedin Internet cafe last week because they were bored.
More than 1,000 largely unregulated Internet cafes have sprouted up across Florida, offering slot machine-style video games on computer screens. De la Portilla has sponsored a bill that would establish requirements for the businesses to operate and impose a $100 fee on each machine. But de la Portilla's bill, which passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, is nothing more than an expansion of gambling that targets customers least able to afford to lose. The predatory Internet cafes don't need to be regulated. They need to be banned, as proposed in a more common sense bill sponsored by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood.
Florida's law enforcement community faces enough challenges without feckless legislators like de la Portilla making their jobs more difficult.