Back to the drawing board for law

By Steve Estes

If you regularly access your home computer to say, check your weekly lottery numbers or enter a sweepstakes, you could be at risk of violating Florida’s newest, improperly thought-out law.

And with that violation could come a storm of law enforcement seeking to confiscate your equipment and any ill-gotten gains you may have derived as a result of that illegal activity.

If you use your portable computing tablet to play on-line, no-stakes poker, with a bunch of buddies, you could be at risk of violating Florida’s newest, improperly thought-out law.

If you use your personal smart phone to register for a sweepstakes or lottery prize, or enter a contest in which you might win something purely by chance, you run the risk of being charged with a misdemeanor.

And if you don’t get the message and do it again, you run the risk of being a convicted felon.

So in the annals of rather dumb laws put in place by our ruling Republican junta in recent years, with little thought to any sort of unintended consequences, or even with some thought at actually reading the legislation before it’s voted in along party lines, this newest illogical law seems to be at the top of the list for relatively stupid.

The Florida Legislature in the past session passed a bill making it illegal to use internet connections or any device with an internet connection for the purpose of participating in games of chance.

The law was meant to crack down on—read as eradicate—internet cafes where otherwise bored people would go to wile away a few peaceful hours tossing some money on a gaming card to play internet slots, or internet poker.

The reason behind this we’re not exactly sure, since the same people can now go toss money at legal lottery, legal off-track betting, legal on-track-betting, legal sports books (even though they are sometimes internet based) they just can’t toss money at some internet site to get rid of funds.

But the wording of the bill, it turns out, makes it darn near illegal in the state of Florida to have a computer hooked up to the internet.

You see, the wording was so vague and so broad that any local politico wishing to put his rivals out of business merely needs to have them charged with checking lottery numbers on a device with an internet connection.

Who wouldn’t be in violation under those circumstances.

Hopefully we can get our illogical, possibly semi-illiterate, Republican rulers in both houses in Tallahassee to read the darn bill they passed and fully understand its implications, and then actually have enough smarts to make some changes that don’t push Florida potentially back into the stone age.

This group of lawmakers, with few changes over the last decade, has been quick to pass broad, over-reaching legislation to attack what a few ranking members felt was a problem for their well-heeled constituents.

This is another example.

These internet cafes that allowed on-line access to gaming sites probably didn’t pay a fair share of taxes in some regard, or took money out of the pockets of some industry to which some lawmaker was beholden, so we passed vague legislation that has very little chance of passing legal muster in the long run, as is evidenced by the plethora of lawsuits now making their way to the courts.

Instead of attacking illicit gambling establishments without the proper licensing and controls, our elected leadership passed a law that wasn’t well vetted that has the potential to outlaw your use of your smart phone, your use of your tablet computer, your use of your home computer, and possibly beyond that.

Not the brightest thing we’ve seen in recent years.

So let’s ask that our elected leaders do what we pay them to do, a novel concept we know, and go back to the drawing board, tighten up the language and take care of the perceived problem without making us all potential criminals for simply playing games with friends over the internet.

We don’t think that’s too much to ask.

And if it is, repeal the whole darn thing and start over.

Not really too difficult.

No Comments »

Leave a Reply