Internet cafe users and supporters packed the Quincy City Commission chambers for the June 14 meeting. Commissioners voted 5-0 to continue the moratorium on any future cafes 90 days beyond the Aug. 22 deadline. In the meantime, a workshop on the issue will be conducted to discuss amending the zoning codes to allow computer gaming with outlined regulations to restrict, as may be modified, the number of locations of Internet Cafes and establish appropriate fees.
Pamela Cooper said that as a full time college student she uses the cafe to access the Internet for her classes and leisure time.
"There are no movies, no bowling ally and no place to go in Gadsden County. I respectfully ask you all to not stop the Internet Cafe," said Anthony Thomas.
It was explained to Thomas and Cooper that the commissioners were not trying to stop the cafes but regulate where they will go and exercise some control over the businesses.
Tenesha Flanders, who managers the Golden Internet Cafe said many of her patrons use the cafe as a social diversion.
"We have signs up about gambling addiction but we cannot control people. If they have a bill to pay and they chose to come to the cafe instead of paying that bill, it's on them. If they don't spend it in the cafe they're going to spent it on the lottery or something else," Flanders said.
The issue regarding Internet Cafe regulation was presented at the May 24, 2011 regular meeting. After a June 2 workshop, staff was directed to review regulations that other municipalities use to allow computer promotional gaming.
There are currently no laws in Florida prohibiting the operation of Internet Cafes using simulated gaming devices. Like Quincy, in the absence of regulations, other communities have decided it is better to have an ordinance or some other regulations in place instead of allowing these businesses to set up and operate without regulations.
The regulation options commissioners will decide on include:
• Location must be at least 1,000 feet from a child care facility or any school, church, county park, community center, senior citizen center, recreational facility or 5,000 feet closer to a similar business.
• Video surveillance will be installed in and around the facility and will be maintained at all times and kept for 14 days and made available to law enforcement if needed.
• An annual fee per device or a flat rate, transferrable or non-transferrable will be assessed.
• A monthly inspection fee, per device or a flat rate, will be assessed.
• Background checks will be conducted on everyone involved with the business and must be cleared before a permit is issued.
• Addiction information (flyers and pamphlets) will be displayed throughout the facility for local Gamblers Anonymous services and treatment centers.
• Uniformed security personnel must be on duty at all times.
• Hours of operation will be established for opening and closing of the business.
• Business will be held accountable for all activities and patrons within 500-foot parameter.
• No minors allowed.
Flanders said her business does no allow minors and that if a person appears underage they are asked to show identification.
Earlean Taylor asked commissioners if Internet Cafes, which claim to support charities, could be required to donate to local charities.
"We have no option to pick and choose the charities, some people use national charities because they already have to 501 (C) designation. But I have taken it upon myself to help some charities in this community such as the Men Of Action and Relay For Life. We really prefer that you all tell us the rules and regulations and what you want. That way, we can go down the list and do what you ask us to do. Owners want to be regulated," Flanders said.