Police to Internet Cafés: Close down or get arrested

St Augustine Police Chief Barry Fox told Historic City News that he informed State Attorney R J Larizza that there are nine individuals who he believes are in violation of state law regarding the operation of “slot machine style” computer games of chance. The charges sought would be for keeping a gambling house and offering an illegal lottery This is not the first time we have seen these machines appear, but Fox says he hopes it’s the last.

St. Augustine Police Department Detective Michal Ochkie says the City mailed demand letters last week and they appear to be working. A few of the Internet Cafes have voluntarily closed, apparently wanting to avoid police arrests of the owner and any employee found to be operating “gaming devices which pay off in money or other things of value.”

Never been to an Internet Café? Typically, the customer loads cash directly into the machine. They receive a “score” equal to 1 point for every quarter deposited. For this example, if they play $20.00, the machine displays a score of “80”. Not $80, but 80 “points”. As the player uses the machine, they accumulate additional points — not based on skill but based on a computer program running inside the machine. The player has no control of the program’s “win/loss” logic. The player can also lose points, up to and including the entire amount of their “buy in” — not because they don’t understand how to win the game, but by pure luck. When the player is ready to leave, if he has any points left, he asks the cashier or bartender for a “refund” — not of the money he put into the machine, but of the number of “points” displayed on the machine. If there were “10” points on the machine, the player would receive $2.50 (10 quarters) in this example.

As of today, the following Internet Café’s have decided to close:

  • Lucky Shamrocks Game Room at 3149 N. Ponce de Leon Boulevard
  • Hips Internet Center at 1092 S. Ponce de Leon Boulevard
  • Blue Mermaid at 69 S. Dixie Highway
  • Twin City at 3501 N. Ponce de Leon Boulevard
  • Rosy’s Too at 804 Anastasia Boulevard
  • Big Deal Buys at 100 Center Creek Road
  • Aunti Up’s Internet Café at 1690 U.S. 1 South
  • Winners Sweepstakes at 2303 N. Ponce de Leon Boulevard

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a decision that “pre-reveal” games, called Version 67, are illegal slot machines because they involve chance and an outcome that the user can’t affect and can’t predict, according to a News Service of Florida article.