City Council votes against internet cafes in Jacksonville

Ordinance passed Tuesday aims to ban simulated gaming devices

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of the Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday night to put an end to internet cafes, as one council member said, "once and for all" in the city.

An ordinance that passed unanimously aims to ban simulated gaming devices. The only arguments during the meeting came over how much time the city will give businesses with legal permits to get rid of the games or close their doors.

Councilman Al Ferraro filed the bill, saying the use of simulated games at internet cafes had become a public nuisance.

"This is about public safety," Ferraro said. "This isn't about trying to figure out if it's legal or illegal."

The bill, working through the legislative process, had twists and turns that ended up with Tuesday night's amendments, shortening the time for businesses to get rid of the games at their "adult arcades."

"It's about enforcement," said Councilman Tommy Hazouri. "How many open up every day, every day, in all 14 districts?"

Crimes at internet cafes have become a key concern. On May 1, a man was shot and killed during a robbery at an adult arcade on the Westside. Douglas Cox tried to save a life and lost his own life in the process.

"We don't need to keep dancing around. We know what we need to do here," Councilman Reggie Gaffney said. "We've been talking about it for years."

Members of City Council were resounding, saying the games need to go as soon as possible.

"I think we ought to make it 10 days, frankly. Or maybe five days," Councilman Bill Gulliford said. "I don't understand the thought process here, as far as worrying about the length of time. We need to err in favor of the citizens and not worry about legal implications, as far as I'm concerned. It's clearly illegal, so what are we debating in this thing?"

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect August 1. Licensed business would have six months from August 1 to get rid of the machines. City Council could reconsider that deadline.

Businesses with machines that do not have licenses could be shut down immediately.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.