Lake City orders internet cafes to shutdown Friday

By: Amber Krycka , Action News Jax

Updated:

Hundreds in Lake City are fighting back against a decision to shut down all casino internet cafes.

Nearly 200 people showed up Thursday night to fight a recent order to shut down 12 casino cafes.

The order comes after four robberies, including a double shooting, at three of the cafes in the last five months.

“Not one time have I had a robbery at my location,” says Linda Russell, a casino cafe owner who stood before the board of county commissioners, trying to save her business. “By taking it away, you are really going to hurt a lot of people."

Russell and 11 other cafes recently received a letter saying they had 10 days to close down because of state law.

“If there is anything of significant value that is risked or gained in a game of chance, and it’s not in a licensed facility, it is considered gambling in Florida,” says state attorney Jeff Siegmeister.

“They are illegal, and they are dangerous now,” said Siegmeister, who went on to say he can no longer ignore this crime.

Less than a month ago, Fish Arcade was robbed at gunpoint and two employees were shot.

It was also robbed again three months before that incident.

Two other internet cafes in the area have been robbed in the last five months.

“Columbia County has more than triple the amount of these casinos than any of our surrounding neighbors,” says Dennille Decker, executive director of the Lake City-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.

Decker says form July of 2016 until July of this year, both Lake City Police and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office responded to nearly 800 calls to the 30 cafes in the county.

“I think it gives us a black eye,” said Decker. 

Russell says not all the internet cafes are bad.

“Sit down and let’s regulate it, and see what needs to be done,” said Russell.

Many commissioners said they want to help, but need more time to research.

All 12 casino cafes have to close down Friday, and the city says continued operation could lead to civil fines and potential criminal prosecution. 

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