JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been nearly two years since Jacksonville shut down adult game rooms, also known as internet cafes.
But the News4Jax I-TEAM has learned some are operating underground, and now one Jacksonville City Council member is looking to try to make them legal.
“I am hearing there are underground gaming rooms throughout the city, operating illegally,” City Councilman Garrett Dennis said Monday. “[They] are a hot spot for crime, but they are not reporting the crime because they are illegal, so I think it’s putting our citizens here in Jacksonville at risk.”
That is why Dennis said he is not opposed to drafting a new ordinance that would allow the rooms to return to Jacksonville legally.
“I’ve had several conversations with former operators that would like us to open up the game rooms again under strict regulations,” Dennis said. “I’m open to that.”
The reason gaming rooms were shut down before is because the city said they were a haven for criminal activity. There were reports of robberies and shootings, and there was a deadly shooting of a security guard at one site. Plus, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said it was illegal gambling. Game room owners have contended that it was not gambling, it was just sweepstakes and therefore legal. So far, that has not held up.
Dennis said the new legislation he is considering introducing would call for big changes in how the game rooms would operate.
“Above board, out of the shadows, heavily regulated with police presence,” Dennis added.
The city said its neighborhood department has been made aware of the sites that are reopening and is looking into this.