Internet cafe, casino to reopen Wednesday

Machines prizes to be minimal in value

By Justin Warmoth - Anchor

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. - Ming Chen owns and operates CocoNuts Internet Cafe on Merritt Island. The cafe was open for two years until state legislation passed a bill three months ago that banned internet casinos in Florida.

Chen said CocoNuts will operate the same as it did a few months ago, except now, even if customers do well on the computers games, they won't win anything of value.

"We hope to get where we used to be. There were a lot of people that liked to come out to these places and enjoy themselves," said Chen.

According to Wayne Holmes with the State Attorney's Office, the internet cafes must meet certain qualifications under Florida law to stay legal.

The machines now must be coin-operated and prizes must be very minimal in value. Holmes said the cafes can operate legally under the so-called "Chuck-E-Cheeses Law" which allows folks to win prizes in games of skill.

Holmes said, "It's my understanding that a number of businesses are trying to reorganize to work underneath the law. A big question is going to be whether or not they can be profitable."

In Chen's case, he doesn't have to worry about getting new machines installed to meet the legal requirements. He has the same 48 computers with the same games that his customers played before they had to shut down.

"We just want to do it the right way, the correct way. We don't want to break any laws or anything like that," said Chen.

CocoNuts plans on officially reopening Wednesday.

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