Internet cafe reopens, but not paying winnings

Cafes were forced to shut down in April

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - About three months ago, arrests were made in the Internet cafe sweep across Florida.

In April, the governor signed a bill into law banning the cafes. The state says they were illegal gambling sites.

Now on the Westside, one of the cafes has reopened, but it's not paying any winnings. Instead, those at Lucky 7s Cafe are just playing to play.

"They are not going to win anything," owner Robin Rukab said. "It's a place to go, socialize and have some food, some free drinks and go home. It's just like going to a bowling alley, bowling your games and going home."

The customers still have to pay. They drop a buck for points and play the slots. They just don't take home any winnings.

"It's something to do," customer Martin Conners said.

That's what Rukab says her customers have been missing since she was ordered to shutdown when Gov. Rick Scott made the game rooms illegal.

It was in March when police raided and arrested Allied Veterans of the World Internet cafe operators, along with Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba and attorney Kelly Mathis, who is charged with being the mastermind behind the gambling enterprise. That trial is still pending.

Rukab said she and other operators of game rooms have filed suit to try and reopen and operate like they did in the past. She said the suit will send a message to lawmakers.

"So that our state lawmakers will understand that they need to rethink what they did when they shut down 1,500 game rooms and put 15,000 people out of jobs," Rukab said. "Our jobs governor did not do his job."

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