Last week a multistate investigation of gambling at Internet cafes resulted in dozens of arrests and the resignation of Florida’s lieutenant governor. Monday the Senate gaming committee voted unanimously in support of a bill that would put an outright ban on such cafes.
For Internet cafes around Gainesville, on Tuesday it was business as usual.
At Golden Internet Cafe located at 806 NE Waldo Rd., the door was open and the owner sat inside while about a dozen patrons sat with their eyes glued to screens flashing numbers, fruits, letters and other symbols.
One woman exclaimed she was on a roll and seemed to be manning two computers at once. The mood was light and energetic and most patrons seemed to at least be acquaintances if not friends.
Another customer said, “We’re all just hanging out here.”
The owner and the cafe’s patrons declined to be interviewed, but reactions to the bill were rather negative.
At Winner’s Circle, another Internet cafe a few miles away at 2501 N. Main St., the mood was quieter and business slower. The customers sat farther apart and didn’t seem to know each other. Most of the customers said it was their first time or second time there, and none professed to be regulars.
The employee on duty declined to be interviewed and asked that the reporter leave the property.
There are more than 20 Internet cafes listed in Gainesville, but many seem to have moved or closed. The bill is going to the Senate floor next, where it will be considered and if approved is expected to go into effect immediately.