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Did Florida outlaw computers & smartphones??

pokerdogsI know Simmons likes to liven things up occasionally by throwing politics out there, but I don’t. Usually. This one has to do with computing and smartphones (potentially), so I can justify it. I’ll try not to judge it too harshly.

This article from the Huffington Post appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, and I just had to drill down to the source. So bear with me a moment.

The HuffPo’s article describes a lawsuit brought against the State of Florida by Consuelo Zapata, owner of Incredible Investments, LLC, an “Internet cafe” that provides services to migrant workers. In this lawsuit, the plaintiff states that in their hurry to ban Internet cafes (because of a scandal in Jacksonville, FL, involving a (supposidly) charitable organization using internet cafes to get around gambling regulations) in April 2013, the Legislature used a very, very loose definition of an illegal slot machine.

So I went to the 2013 amendment to the Florida Statutes, and here’s the pertinent section:

CS/HB 155 2013 session
Section 4. Section 846.16, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
849.16 Machines or devices which come within provisions of law defined.—
(1) As used in this chapter, the term “slot machine or device” means any machine or device or system or network of devices is a slot machine or device within the provisions of this chapter if it is one that is adapted for use in such a way that, upon activation, which may be achieved by, but is not limited to, as a result of the insertion of any piece of money, coin, account number, code, or other object or information, such machine or device or system is directly or indirectly caused to operate or may be operated and if the user, whether by application of skill or by reason of any element of chance or of any other outcome of such operation unpredictable by the user him or her, may:
(a) Receive or become entitled to receive any piece of money, credit, allowance, or thing of value, or any check, slug, token, or memorandum, whether of value or otherwise, which may be exchanged for any money, credit, allowance, or thing of value or which may be given in trade; or
(b) Secure additional chances or rights to use such machine, apparatus, or device, even though the device or system it may be available for free play or, in addition to any element of chance or unpredictable outcome of such operation, may also sell, deliver, or present some merchandise, indication of weight, entertainment, or other thing of value. The term “slot machine or device” includes, but is not limited to, devices regulated as slot machines pursuant to chapter 551.

(Bold items are insertions, strikethroughs are deletions.)

So here’s what the lawsuit is contending: the phrase “…the term “slot machine or device” means any machine or device or system or network of devices” includes ALL COMPUTERS AND SMARTPHONES CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET. And by this definition, so loosely stated and interpreted, potentially bans these devices in the State of Florida. Reading the rest of the section makes me think that could be a stretch, but yes, we can play games of chance on our computers and smartphones. And as (1)(b) points out, “…may also sell, deliver, or present some merchandise, indication or weight, entertainment, or other thing of value.” Well, we certainly get entertainment out of these things.

So … What do you think, oh reader? If I play a free-to-play poker game on my computer, have I just broken the law in Florida? Heck, if I play Klondike on my Lumia 920 (which I often do to pass a little time), am I breaking the law?

To my Legislators: Seriously, you want to tighten the language on these damn bills. “We didn’t mean it to mean…” is no excuse. If you write them loosely, they’ll be interpreted loosely.