JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UPDATE: A years-long push by some Jacksonville lawmakers to close internet gaming facilities appears to finally have paid off. Tuesday evening the Jacksonville City Council voted in favor of shutting down all remaining internet cafes, immediately.
The city said the businesses are linked to violent crime. About 2,000 people could lose their jobs because of it.
Data collected last September showed The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had received more than 28,000 calls to addresses tied to nearly 100 internet cafes over a five-year period.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will need to sign the bill into law, before the facilities are forced to close. We are reaching out to the city to learn when the measure will be signed, we'll bring you an update once we hear back.
Watch an updated video of the story in the above media player or click here.
The following council members voted yes or no to the bill:
- Danny Becton – No
- Aaron Bowman- Yes
- Michael Boylan – No
- Matt Carlucci – No
- LeAnna Cumber – Yes
- Randy DeFoor – Yes
- Garrett Dennis – No
- Rory Diamond – Yes
- Al Ferraro – Yes
- Terrance Freeman – Yes
- Reggie Gaffney – Yes
- Tommy Hazouri – No
- Joyce Morgan – No
- Sam Newby – Yes
- Ju'Coby Pittman – Yes
- Brenda Jackson – No
- Ron Salem – No
- Randy White – No
- Scott Wilson - Yes
The City Council could make the looming crackdown on simulated gambling devices at permitted internet cafes in Jacksonville happen even sooner.
Simulated gambling machines were banned with legislation enacted by the Council in May, and internet cafes with permits were given until Feb. 1, 2020, to get rid of the machines, or possibly face being shut down.
On behalf of Mayor Lenny Curry's Office Tuesday, chief administrative officer Brian Hughes told city council members the city would be ready and willing to respond should the council decide to take action even sooner.
"We will be ready to have enforcement teams assemble, and going out to the remaining locations," Hughes told Action News Jax reporter Ryan Nelson.
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"There is no doubt about it, the majority of these internet cafes have turned into magnets for other criminal activity," Hughes said.
Following Hughes' comments, District 7 Councilman Reggie Gaffney, and District 2 Councilman Al Ferraro, expressed a desire to explore the possibility of cutting the deadline for cafes short.
Doing so would result in code enforcement crews, building inspectors, JFRD and JSO being sent out to internet cafes with permits around the city, to make sure they don't have illegal gambling machines.
Those in violation could face being shut down.
The discussion comes just one day after a security guard was shot and killed at the High Score Arcade in Paxon on Edgewood early Monday morning.
According to the city, there are about 170 permitted internet cafes around the city of Jacksonville. This includes the High Score Arcade.
But not all of the businesses have a legal claim to being open. The city says it's shut down 12 internet cafes inspection crews found operating without permits.
Neighbors tell us something needs to be done to prevent future violent crimes from happening at similar businesses.
"Innocent people, a security guard!" said Jacksonville mother Beverly Clark. "He was trying to make a decent living."
Now, it's up to the council to decide whether to cut the deadline short, which would require amending the recently enacted legislation.
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