Nassau officials craft ordinance regulating internet cafes after crime spike

The number of internet cafes in Nassau County has more than doubled in the last year

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla – The fate of adult arcades was discussed Monday night in Nassau County, but any decision on their future was delayed until 2020.

During a meeting of the Nassau Board of County Commissioners that started at 5:30 p.m., Commissioners discussed a proposed ordinance to prohibit simulated gambling devices found in internet cafes and identify them as a public nuisance.

Emotions were high as people voiced their opinions about whether or not adult arcades should be shut down in Nassau County.

“It’s a problem that exists and it needs to be taken care of and taken care of immediately," said Kenny Farmer, Nassau County resident.

Arcade owners and those in favor of the internet café’s didn’t want to speak on camera, but claim they bring in revenue and are ideal for senior citizens to socialize.

The commissioners discussed a proposed ordinance that would rule the gaming facilities as a public nuisance. The Sheriff’s Office said it did an undercover study at 28 of the gaming facilities where they witnessed drug sales and prostitution. The Sheriff’s Office said there has also been a significant amount of violent crimes along with burglary and theft in the last few years at businesses in Nassau County.

Since 2015, according to the Sheriff’s Office, there have been 25 armed robberies at Nassau County businesses, six of which were game room armed robberies. The Sheriff’s Office said three of those six game room armed robberies occurred this year.

Many feel the reason for the uptick in crime at the arcades is because Duval County banned the internet cafe’s in October.

Officials said before Duval’s ban there were 14 adult arcades in Nassau County. Now there are 30.

“Say enough is enough because if they don’t shut them down and someone is seriously hurt, or God forbid murdered, they are to be held morally and possibly legally responsible because they have had the tools, the ordinance to shut them down. If they don’t do it, it’s their fault,” Seber Newsome III said.

An internet cafe owner told News4Jax she feels it’s not fair to punish all the arcades because some of them had violent crimes.

No action was taken during the Monday night meeting. There will be another public meeting to discuss the proposed ordinance Jan. 27 at 6 p.m.

At a meeting last month, the county told News4Jax it can’t legally put a ban on the adult arcades, but it plans to create restrictions to cut down on crime.

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