JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The I-TEAM has learned more about why the Seminole Tribe of Florida has filed a lawsuit against numerous internet cafes in Jacksonville, asking a judge to issue an injunction shutting them.
The attorney who filed the complaint told the I-TEAM on Thursday it's because there are more internet cafes in Jacksonville than in any other city in the state.
"The reason we selected Duval (County) is there appears to be considerably more of them in Duval than other counties," said attorney Barry Richard, who represents the Seminole Tribe.
News4Jax investigators have been following the spread of the popular, but often criticized, businesses in the city since the first internet cafe opened in the early 2000s.
The number of cafes operating in Jacksonville has since grown to nearly 200, and the suit raises questions about what could happen to them.
The I-TEAM has been around to most of the cafes listed in the lawsuit, most of which feature so-called fish games. With the new games, the prize dollars add up, and so can the losses. The tables can earn a hefty profit for the owners.
That's one reason why the Seminole Tribe is suing, saying that it's not an arcade, but it's pure and simple gambling.
"These facilities are in direct violation of Florida law," Richard told the I-TEAM by phone. "They are also in violation of the contract."
Under that agreement, the Seminole Tribe of Florida pays millions of dollars to the state in order to have the exclusive rights to casino-style gambling.
COURT DOCUMENT: Seminole Tribe lawsuit
The suit does not list all of the nearly 200 locations operating in Jacksonville, but those named are located all around Jacksonville. The I-TEAM went to many of them Thursday and was told no comment.
But at Funcade on Emerson Street, the I-TEAM was able to go inside and see how it operates. A supervisor said they have a legal permit. Customers weren't happy about the suit.
"I don’t see nothing wrong with it myself," customer Calvin Mobley said.
In the past, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has conducted high-profile raids of some cafes, which ended without prosecutions.
On Thursday, Sheriff Mike Williams told the I-TEAM that there is not much he can do right now.
"We are almost in limbo," Williams said. "We need some type of legal direction about is it gambling or is it not."
But the attorney for the Seminole Tribe said the sheriff is wrong.
"I don't share his belief that the law is uncertain," Richard said. "The law is very clear."
Richard said this could eventually end up in court, but they're hoping to resolve this without taking that step.