Internet cafe supporters speak out on ban

Gaming operation remains open after Gov. Rick Scott signs bill into law

By Lisa Bell - Anchor

DELTONA, Fla. - Several hours after Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law immediately banning Internet cafes, Local 6 found one store front gaming operation still open for business.

EZ Play Internet Cafe in Deltona was bustling with business Wednesday night. One employee telling Local 6 they plan to stay open until they are told to shut down.

Meantime, other Internet cafes, like The Lucky Lady in New Smyrna Beach, shut its doors shortly after the new law went into effect.

"I was devastated. Now I'm trying to find another job," said Joyce Weir, who was supposed to be working at The Lucky Lady Wednesday night.

"I got a phone call that the governor was signing it and they were closing. So now, I'm without work. I'm over 50 and it's very hard to find a job," said Weir.

Weir decided to drive to EZ Play, hoping to find some of her former patrons and say goodbye.

The new law targeted the cafes, which sell internet time and have casino-style games. An estimated 1,000 store front gaming operations in Florida are now illegal and an estimated 14,000 people were laid off.

John Belmore of Deltona said he visits Internet cafes regularly. He said it's not about the gambling, but rather the socialization.

"There's nothing for old people to do and now they took all this away, what are we supposed to do now?" asked Belmore.

The ban comes just weeks after an investigation into cafes run by the Allied Veterans of the World. It led to dozens of arrests and the resignation of Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll. But cafe supporters say one bad apple shouldn't ruin it for everyone.

"Allied should have been punished, they should have been closed, but not all of them, they're not all the same," said Weir.

Enforcement of the new law is up to local law-enforcement. Local 6 reached out to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office. They said they plan to visit all of the cafes in their jurisdiction and inform them of the new law, but when they will do that is not set in stone.

Meantime, cafe supporters are reportedly planning to challenge the new law saying it lacks clarity. They're also saying it unfairly targets the cafes and want all arcade-style games to be banned, including those offering kids toys in stores, movie theaters and restaurants like Chuck-E-Cheese's.

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