They must put something in the water in Florida. The latest is that the state has effectively banned all computers, tablets and smartphones. Yes, all of them. Apparently there was a hastily passed law, CS/HB 155: Prohibition of Electronic Gambling Devices, which as you might guess, is supposed to be about banning electronic gambling devices. Apparently, the bill was written quickly in response to a political controversy:
In April Florida Governor Rick Scott approved a ban on slot machines and Internet cafes after a charity tied to Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll was shut down on suspicion of being an Internet gambling front — forcing Carroll, who had consulted with the charity, to resign.
But, here’s the problem. The bill’s definitions section is a complete mess. You can see the full text (pdf) which contains cross outs and additions, but what comes out in the end is the following:
As used in this chapter, the term “slot machine or device” means any machine or device or system or network of devices… that is adapted for use in such a way that, upon activation… such 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 any other outcome 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 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.
Note that I took out chunks of that definition to try to make it more readable and it’s still a mess. The short version is that a slot machine or device is any machine or device by which someone can play a game of chance. That’s any device with a web browser connected to the internet. Any one.
Almost immediately, around 1,000 internet cafes shut down, and now one of them, called Incredible Investments, is suing, seeking declaratory relief on a number of issues related to the law, which shut down their cafe. They go through one by one the problems with the law (and they are many), including the definition of the slot machine:
The definition of “slot machine or device” now contained in Fla. Stat. § 849.16, as amended, fails to adequately describe the prohibited machine or device such that a person of common understanding cannot know what is forbidden.
[….] As amended, Section 849.16, Florida Statutes includes a presumption that any device, system, or network like the Plaintiff’s computers that displays images of games of chance is an illegal slot machine.
The newly-enacted section 849.16(3), Florida Statutes, creates an evidentiary presumption that relieves the State of Florida of its burden of persuasion beyond a reasonable doubt of every essential element of a crime
There’s a lot more in the actual lawsuit (embedded below). Can we just have lawmakers recognize, once and for all, that they’re really bad at legislating technology?