TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The debate over shutting down Florida's Internet cafes is dividing some of the state's devout leaders.
Father Bob Caudill is a lifelong, committed Catholic. Bill Bunkley represents Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy agency for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Two men who are centered on a Christian life hold very different opinions on Internet cafes.
A bill to ban what some call strip-mall casinos passed another hurdle at the Florida statehouse Monday.
Nearly a week after a multistate illegal gambling investigation led to dozens of arrests and the resignation of Florida's lieutenant governor, a Senate panel Monday cleared its version of a ban on the gambling establishments commonly known as Internet cafes.
The Senate gaming committee voted unanimously on the bill (SB 1030) that now has evolved into an outright prohibition on the strip-mall casinos.
The Southern Baptist Convention opposes all forms of gambling. Bunkley says sweepstakes are predatory gambling outfits that target seniors.
"Quite frankly, old folks are getting ripped off," said Bunkley. "It's not to any fault of themselves but this needs to be addressed and this needs to be cleaned up."
Opponents of the bill pleaded with lawmakers to pump the brakes on the ban. Dozens spoke out warning of widespread job loss.
Father Caudill says his parish's budget increased 30 percent thanks to donations from gaming centers. He says a ban would put needy families in jeopardy.
"I'm seeing more families in cars than I've ever seen in my 22 years," said Caudill. "We had five people sleeping in the soup kitchen last night that were family and this happens on a daily basis."
According to investigators, these cafes were the front for a multi-million dollar charity scandal.
It was a standing-room only crowd at the Senate gaming committee meeting Monday.
A number of veterans with the American Legion also spoke out against the measure worried that their charity dollars will dry up if the bill is signed into law.
A House committee cleared its own version of the bill on Friday banning Internet cafes.