Florida Could Lose Millions from Seminoles if Internet Cafes Are Regulated


Roughly 1,000 Internet cafes operate in Florida, but they are potentially illegal under the state's gaming laws. The Legislature is weighing whether to regulate Internet cafes—largely considered "storefront casinos" by critics—or ban them, reported the Associated Press.

If lawmakers approve a bill to regulate Internet cafes, the Seminole Tribe of Florida could stop paying tens of millions to the state, because it would violate a 2010 compact the tribe signed with the state.

The state granted the Seminoles exclusive gambling rights in exchange for $1 billion over a five-year period. The Seminoles operate both slot machines and card games such as blackjack at a handful of casinos including ones in South Florida and Tampa.

Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Seminoles, said that the tribe was "studying the issue, but continues to be committed" to the compact with the state. Under the agreement, the Seminoles will pay $1.2 billion over the next five years to the state to maintain their monopoly on gaming.

But Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, argues Internet cafes existed in Florida long before the compact was signed. He has promised to fight efforts to ban the operations, because they currently employ 13,000 people.

"As the sponsor of the legislation, I will not allow smoke and mirror legal opinions to deter me from seeking to regulate Internet cafes and opposing the job-killing efforts to ban these legal Florida businesses," Diaz de la Portilla told the AP.