11 Jul Does New Florida Law Make Computers Illegal?
Here is a new one for the statute book. It seems that Florida might have just made computers illegal.
The state has recently passed a bill in an effort to curb gambling in internet cafes. Which, depending on your point of view, you might think a reasonable thing to do. However, it seems that the wording of the bill is so broad that it can easily be interpreted to cover computers, tablets and mobile phones, or indeed any device that can connect to the internet.
The bill, which was passed two months ago, extended the words “slot machine” so that it could be used to cover computers being used as “makeshift” slot machines thus closing a loophole which allowed gambling centers to trade as internet cafes or adult arcades. However, it seems that the bill has had unintended consequences and could make computers illegal and mobile phones as well.
When the bill was passed, over a thousand internet cafes were shut down instantly including one run by Incredible Investments LLC owned by Consuela Zapata. She is now suing the state after it was found that the ban could apply to include any computer or device that could connect to the internet.
The ban defines an illegal slot machine as “any system or network of devices” that could be used in a “game of chance”.
Zapata’s cafe offered game promotions to her customers. When they bought time on the internet they could use it to see if they had won anything.
Florida’s new definition of a “slot machine” now includes “any machine or device or system or network of devices” used to play games of chance or skill which can be activated by not just inserting money but an “account number, code, or other object or information”.
Zapata’s attorney, Justin Kaplan says that this definition includes any computer or smartphone since these devices connect to the internet and could theoretically be used to play an illegal game.
It gets worse. Anyone could walk into a public library and use one of their computers to enter a competition where there is the possibility of a reward. Kaplan says that the owner of that computer network could then be in trouble for having illegal slot machines.
A recent advert for beer showed a man entering a code from the bottom of a can on his mobile phone to see if he had won a prize. Kaplan says that by entering a code the new law says that makes the mobile phone an illegal slot machine.
Still worse is the fact that the law also states that a device is presumed to be an illegal slot machine if “it is used to display images of games of chance” that involve a payout of something of value.
Kaplan says that this shifts the burden of proof on to the owner of the device. “What the law is saying here is that you own an illegal slot machine. Now prove to us that it isn’t” says Kaplan.
Arcades and businesses with gaming machines are also being affected. The outcome of this should be interesting.