HIALEAH, Fla. - South Florida seniors and a Florida state representative defended adult arcades, which could be banned along with internet cafes if legislators pass a bill that would outlaw the storefront operations.
"Leave us alone. This is nonsense stuff. Go after the big stuff, not us," said Anne Dee, an adult arcade player.
Dee, a retiree, is often at Play It Again, an adult arcade in Davie.
"It's not like we're spending hundreds of dollars," she said. "Nowhere near that."
The Florida House on Friday voted overwhelmingly to approve a ban on the cafes, and the Senate is expected to follow soon and send a bill to Gov. Rick Scott.
Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, criticized the bill because it would put out of business adult arcades that are used heavily by senior citizens. Adult arcades, prevalent in South Florida, offer gift cards to winning players. Arcade owners have maintained that they offer games that require a skill and therefore don't qualify as gambling.
"What you are doing is harming the state of Florida; you are harming the seniors," Waldman said.
But Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami and sponsor of the ban, maintained that the adult arcades are engaged in gambling as well because the games offered rely on chance. He also noted that the adult arcades offer the equivalent of cash.
John Troconis, the manage at Tropical Arcade in Hialeah, said patrons don't win money but instead receive credits they can exchange for prizes and gift cards.
Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, questioned the move to ban the storefront operations instead of trying to regulate them.
"Seriously, why jump from saying something is bad and make it a crime when it actually is fine but should just be regulated," said Schwartz.
"I think it's really, really bad that they want to take our 'Penny Annie' because that's what we call it," said Elise Buckley.
Legislators have considered bills the past two years to ban the internet cafes, but they stalled amid debates over whether to outlaw or regulate the operations.
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. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, resigned last week after she was questioned about consulting work she did for Allied.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, predicts the bill will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott before the session ends in early May.
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