TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Nearly a week since a federal investigation into Florida's gaming centers netted nearly 50 arrests, lawmakers are taking steps to shut down sweepstakes.
Many within the Senate gaming committee say the Internet cafe crackdown provided the perfect catalyst to close all operations.
[VETERANS CHARITY SCANDAL: SPECIAL COVERAGE
The Senate gaming committee voted unanimously on bill SB 1030
, which would ban what some call strip-mall casinos across the state. The House approved a similar measure Friday.
Supporters and opponents packed the hearing room, many wore t-shirts calling for increased oversight that read "regulation, not elimination."
Senators heard from dozens of people during a lengthy period of public comment.
"You're going to be putting 16,000 people out of work," said one Internet cafe owner. "I have a family. My employees have a family."
But the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Thrasher, a republican from St. Augustine, said this isn't about forcing legal operations to close.
"It's about a loophole that has been created due to incredibly new technology that, frankly, has outpaced the will of this legislature to do something about it."
All gambling is illegal in the state of Florida. Sen. Thrasher's bill doesn't create a new law, rather, he says it better defines and enforces the existing one to ensure illegal operations are closed.