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Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 4, April 2014, Posted On: 3/18/2014

In Florida, A Revised Law Restores The Amusement Industry

Nick Montano
TAGS: Florida amusement machine law, Florida Senate gaming committee, PCB 668, state Sen. Kelli Stargel, claw vending machine laws, Florida gambling laws, Florida HB 155, arcade, cashless card systems, Dave & Buster's, amusement game prizes, bona fide entertainment, amusement law clarification, Amusement Machine Owners Association of Florida, AMOAF

TALLAHASSEE, FL -- Amusement machines equipped with banknote or cashless card acceptance will no longer be in violation of Florida state law under a bill that won unanimous support in early March in the Senate gaming committee. Additionally, the proposed bill increases legal prize limits for skill cranes and other amusement vending machines.

The bill (PCB 668), sponsored by state Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), cleared its first review by the state Senate gaming committee on March 10. It allows amusement machine patrons to use different types of payment methods -- coins, bills, tokens or cards -- to add credits to games, changing a measure passed last year that said games must be coin-operated only. And the bill would bump up the amount a player can receive per round to $5.25 from 75¢, and would increase the maximum worth of a prize awarded by a direct-merchandise game, like a skill crane, to about $50.

One year ago, Florida's House approved a measure (HB 155) that altered the language used to describe slot machines and other gaming devices that players could use to win money. By changing the definition of a slot machine, lawmakers were hoping to close a loophole that had allowed Internet cafés to stay open and prosper in Florida. For the most part it did. But unintentionally the measure also impacted the legitimate amusement sector. Its vaguely worded bans on the use of non-coin payment systems and on prizes valued at more than 75¢ easily could have applied to amusement games. It was also assumed that the law could have affected videogames and pinballs by limiting the amount of free credits allowed. | SEE STORY

Of particular concern were multifunction cashless card systems used by Dave & Buster's and independent family entertainment centers in Florida. According to the letter of the law, redemption equipment would no longer be allowed to use card readers.

The revised law now defines an amusement game as one that is played for "bona fide entertainment" in which skill, not chance, controls its outcome. Sen. Stargel said amusement games and family arcades were not the targets of the 2013 legislation and the new law provides needed clarification.

The Amusement Machine Owners Association of Florida supports most of the provisions in Stargel's bill, and says the revised law solves a lot of problems. However, the association is opposed to any prize-dollar limits.

The Senate bill now heads to the commerce and tourism committee.

SOURCE: The Tampa Tribune

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