Several internet cafes in St. Augustine have closed up shop.
While the reason behind all of the closures isn’t clear, the St. Augustine Police Department recently sent letters accusing the businesses of violating the law by having “gaming devices which pay off in money or other things of value.” The letters gave the businesses 48 hours to cease any illegal gambling.
Police also forwarded the names of nine people and charges of keeping a gambling house and offering an illegal lottery to the State Attorney’s Office. As of Nov. 5, the SAO had not decided whether to prosecute. The office didn’t immediately respond to a request for an update on Monday.
Internet cafe is a term typically used for adult gaming establishments where patrons can play arcade or casino-style games and win money.
St. Augustine Police Department Detective Michal Ochkie said his agency sent the warning letters after a court decision found slot-machine-style games to be illegal.
Specifically, 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.
Ochkie said internet cafes typically use a variety of games.
“These types of investigations, they keep changing because it all depends on the law and the interpretations of the law,” Ochkie said.
The following St. Augustine internet cafes were no longer in business as of Monday: Lucky Shamrocks Game Room at 3149 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd., Hips Internet Center at 1092 S. Ponce de Leon Blvd., Blue Mermaid at 69 S. Dixie Highway, Twin City at 3501 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd. and Rosy’s Too at 804 Anastasia Blvd.
Big Deal Buys at 100 Center Creek Road off Lewis Speedway appeared to be closed as of Monday. There were no signs on the business, and no one answered the door. The person listed as the owner didn’t answer a phone call.
Aunti Up’s Internet Café at 1690 U.S. 1 South (also spelled Auntie Upps) and Winners Sweepstakes at 2303 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd appeared to be temporarily closed.
A Facebook page for Winners Sweepstakes said the business would be closed for Thanksgiving. Also, a sign posted outside of the businesses said that “no payouts or redeems” would be given and that the business is “play for fun and entertainment only.”
A sign posted at Aunti Up’s said the business had been temporarily closed since Oct. 19.
Smitty’s at 74 Masters Drive was open on Monday. Smitty’s owner, Philip Smith, said in October via his attorney that his business operates legally.