Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gaming Machine Ban OK'd; Governor Expected to Sign Bill That Closes Loopholes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gaming Machine Ban OK'd; Governor Expected to Sign Bill That Closes Loopholes

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | Less than a month after a St. Augustine-based nonprofit was accused of running a $300 million money-laundering scheme, a quick swipe of the pen by Gov. Rick Scott will clarify the machines used by that group - and dozens of other businesses - are illegal.

On a 36-4 vote, the Senate Thursday passed legislation (HB 155) that supporters say would make clear that the machines used by Allied Veterans of the World are against state law. As a result, the gaming centers in the state that sell Internet time to customers who can then play games will have to close once the governor signs the law.

Investigators say Allied Veterans brought in $300 million but gave only 2 percent to the veterans groups it claimed to help. That led to the arrest of 57 people, and the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll because of consulting work she had done for Allied Veterans before taking office.

"I think this is about what you want the state of Florida to be, and what we have seen the state of Florida become," said Sen. John Thrasher, the St. Augustine Republican who sponsored the bill.

The House has already passed the measure, and Scott's office said he will sign the legislation into law.

Supporters said the bill only clarifies that existing law does not allow the type of machines used by Allied Veterans, but it ran into opposition from those fearful that it would impact machines at other centers ranging from those geared toward senior citizens to places like Chuck E. Cheese.

"Seniors and children are being punished despite following the rules and providing a safe place for entertainment," said Gale Fontaine, president of the Florida Arcade Association, in a statement.

Defenders of the senior arcades have shown up in force to tell lawmakers they oppose the bill. …

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