Jacksonville, FL - As we continue to learn more fallout of the Allied Veterans of the World internet gaming scandal, WOKV has learned Jacksonville tried to get ahead of internet cafes just over two years ago- but some say that effort now just wasn’t enough.
Councilman Don Redman was one of the sponsors of the bill that was heavily debated, lobbied and amended on its road to final passage.
“The restrictions I wanted were for them to be gone,” he says.
What wound up passing was instead a bill with increased restrictions. I’ve been working through the roughly 50 page final legislation which details things like the fees internet café operators face, the cap on the number of facilities allowed, and the application process for a permit itself.
“I was hoping they would just face out over a period of time,” Redman says.
Redman tells me, while this debate was going on, he visited many internet cafes in his district and was met with a range of responses to the city action. He says many people begged him not to push for any closures- but it was that begging that made him advocate more because he was seeing some people spend their last dollars.
“I remember one young lady that came down and said she spent her last $20 in the internet café because she was down to her last $20 and her rent was due, and she said I want enough money to pay my rent,” he tells me of one of his visits to a cafe.
With the recent bust of nearly 50 internet cafes, 8 in Duval County alone which is the highest number in one county in the state, that investigators says were actually illegal gambling sites that were not donating proceeds to veteran charities as advertised, Redman looks back at what the city did and is not happy. He admits that hindsight is 20-20, but acknowledges that he was just not happy with the final law.
Even the restrictions that do exist, Redman questions how tightly they are being enforced.
“I do believe that someone was falling down on the job,” he says.
WOKV is continuing to investigate the city’s regulation and whether café owners are getting around the law. But Redman says you may not see more city action any time soon, especially if state lawmakers continue to move quickly.
“It’s a shame it had to come to this point before they would actually do something,”
He says he lobbied state lawmakers years ago, even prior to the city’s action, and truly attributes Allied Veterans to making real change happen.
“They cured it [the internet café problem] themselves, the hard way,” he says.
Redman tells me it’s a shame that so many people are in jail and got in trouble in order to enact this change, but he thinks Jacksonville will be better off because of it.