TALLAHASSEE -- The House opened its examination of Florida's gaming laws Tuesday as a state senator gave more details on his plan for a moratorium on Internet cafes.
The inaugural meeting of the House Select Committee on Gaming came a day after its Senate counterpart closed down for the session after a handful of informational meetings; lawmakers in the upper chamber are waiting for a study the Legislature plans to commission, and they hope to hold a few public meetings across the state.
Much of the information House members received Tuesday was similar to the information provided to the Senate panel in the early part of its deliberations, and Chairman Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, suggested his committee would also not take any immediate action on gaming.
"We do not want more band-aid approaches to gaming in this state," Schenck said after the meeting. "We want a full, comprehensive plan and that very well may take a year to develop if not longer."
Meanwhile, Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Thrasher fleshed out his idea for a moratorium on Internet cafes, a proposal he floated without elaborating on it at the final meeting of the Senate's gambling committee.
Legislators grappled with the issue of Internet cafes - which critics argue are illegal games similar to slot machines - in 2012 but were unable to come to an agreement. Some lawmakers want the businesses banned altogether; others simply want to regulate them.
The industry says it offers computerized versions of legal sweepstakes.
Thrasher said the idea behind the bill would be to essentially pause the rapidly-growing industry as legislators try to figure out a broader policy on gaming in Florida.
"Until we have a better feel for what we want to do globally, we ought to call time out," Thrasher said.
He said current Internet cafes could continue to operate, which would seem to be in line with a response Monday from the Coalition of Internet Cafes, an industry group.
"Depending upon exact details of a proposed moratorium bill, if it allows for existing law-abiding operators and employers to continue in their existing capacity, we believe our coalition will support legislation along these lines," spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said then.
Schenck was also measured in his response to the idea.
"Right now, we need to do our educational process before we can consider any sort of policy decisions," he said.
But the House chairman didn't close the door on the idea.
"I would say, again, this is just the first meeting, but we are certainly open-minded to pretty much anything," Schenck said.
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