Hundreds Attend Internet Cafés Hearing

Council Hears Arguments In Favor, Opposed To Outlawing Cafés

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It was a full house at City Council on Tuesday evening at a hearing about Internet cafés.

The council is considering legislation that would outlaw the sites in Jacksonville.

The public hearing was a chance for the council to listen to those in favor and against outlawing the cafés.

Joyce Hodges went to the meeting with a bus load of others from one of the 50 Internet cafés in Jacksonville.

"I don't believe it's gambling," Hodges said. "It's a good place for older people to go."

Charlene Small was one among bus loads of people from the local dog track who also showed up.

"We do not support illegal gambling," Small said.

All those at the meeting were to have three minutes to speak to the council.

Jason Chapple was one of the many who spoke. He and his wife both work at a cyber cafe. He said they'll be coming back to City Hall looking for a handout if the city deems these businesses gambling and puts him out of a job.

"When I was laid off a year and a half ago, we lost our safety net. We went through all our savings. This will just cripple us," Chapple said.


The business backing the legislation has been Jacksonville Greyhound Racing. The company runs The Poker Room and dog track. In a statement they said, "It does not threaten jobs since it does not close the Internet cafes. It simply stops the deceptive use of slot machine-like devices by prohibiting the use of slot machine-like spinning reels, video displays or similar technology."

Some supporters of the internet rooms say the reason the dog track is opposed is simply because they're trying to eliminate competition.

"You can see who presented the bill. The people who have their finger on the gambling market in Jacksonville," Chapple said.

Channel 4's Jim Piggott spoke with several council members Tuesday who said they still have not decided how they will vote. There won't be a final vote for at least a month.

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