Stung by a criminal investigation into an online gambling ring that poured $1.4 million into legislative campaigns, the Florida House on Friday voted 110 to 6 for a bill aimed at shutting down Internet cafes, adult arcades and Miami’s “maquinitas.”

It’s a great day in the Florida House,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, who sponsored the bill. “This will be one of the largest contractions of gaming that we’ve experienced in our state, certainly in the last 50 or 100 years.”

The bill attempts to clarify state law by specifying that charity organizations, adult arcades and for-profit sweepstakes operators may not operate permanent gambling centers using casino-style games that portend to be games of skill.

An internet cafe in Crystal River advertised “sweepstakes booty” on Friday. Via Steve Bousquet

Opponents blasted the measure as a knee-jerk reaction to a political scandal and warned that the bill will have the unintended consequence of sending hundreds of business owners and their employees into the unemployment lines.

“Here we are today going to outlaw something that for the past 30 years has been legal in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, R-Coconut Creek. “If we’re going to do that, what’s next?”

The measure, (HB 155), comes a week after federal and state officials arrested 57 owners and operators of Allied Veterans of the World, a Jacksonville-based chain of 49 “Internet cafes” and charged them with illegal gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

Authorities say they raised a combined $300 million in profits over three years but paid out only 2 percent of their proceeds to charities. The investigation also prompted the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll,who once was a consultant for Allied Veterans when she served in the Legislature.

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Florida House votes to ban internet cafes
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