'Fear factor' grips Internet cafe industry

Customer count down while fate of internet cafes remain in limbo

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Lawmakers haven't even approved the final ban on internet cafes, but owners say the fear factor among their customers has already started to take hold.

"They are scared, they are worried about us not being here tomorrow. Especially if they win their money. But we tell them there's nothing to worry about, we have bonds with the state, we are protected for this sort of thing" said Elia Hawara who is the owner of Royal Times Sweepstakes.

Hawara says his customers payouts are secure but he is concerned that both of his businesses will have to abruptly cease and desist.

"This thing isn't even a week old, and they've already decided to close. All I hear is close, close, close and a lot of people are going to be affected. These lawmakers need to take it easy calm down, and think about it. This will hurt Florida families" said Hawara.

The Florida house approved a measure today to outlaw electronic gaming across the state. Some lawmakers say the cafe's are predatory, and capitalizes on gambling addiction.

Long time player Kathy Harrison says that is definitely not the case.

"Right at the moment, I'm two hundred dollars ahead, and whats fun is watching the wheels spin and match up. But I think the whole thing is ridiculous, I come here to have fun with my friends." 

Harrison who's retired says the cafes provides her with a social outlet. Harrison says many players are in a wait and see mode to see if they'll remain in business over the next few weeks.

"I have a couple of friends who wont go to the places right now, until they find out what's happening" said Harrison.

Owners say they feel they're being punished, even though they've done nothing wrong.

"Whoever is doing illegal stuff, let them go, but don't punish us" said Elia Hawara.

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