By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – On May 23, six different Internet Cafes across Tallahassee were searched by undercover agents equipped with surveillance cameras.
2764 West Tennessee Street: Zyber 2 Inc aka Euro Boutique
1885 Northwood Blvd: Tallahassee Midtown Arcade Amusement Center
1214 Capital Circle SE: Southern Arcade
3839 North Monroe: Tallahassee North Arcade Amusement Center
1363 East Lafayette Street: Unknown
1350 Mahan Drive: Cyber Connections
Since the searches, WCTV has learned new information from the search warrants of these busts. Neighboring store owners to these internet cafes are hoping that the closure of these stores means they are gone for good.
John Buck, owner of Fast Signs, says he suspected that something was "not right" over at Tallahassee Midtown Arcade.
"We knew that something was going on. We suspected that it...wasn't legal, but we didn't have any evidence, per se," Buck said.
Many of the storeowners share that they are confused as to the legalities of these "arcades". The warrants help shed some light, indicating that what makes these cafes illegal is instead of directly paying a game or machine as you would in a casino or arcade, the cashiers at the front of the businesses pay out the winnings directly to the customers.
The warrants also share that when a customer enters these cafes, they pay their playing money, and then are given a code or account number that must be entered before playing on any of the devices or slot machines.
Cashiers, like the ones in Zyber 2 Inc, can only pay out $500 to an individual in one day. The point system that LCSO and TPD seemed to find consistent in all the cafes, is that $1 equaled 100 points. The amount of points would be translated back into cash, which would then be paid out to the customer upon exiting the facility.
Buck has experienced it first hand.
"Well we went in once to look at it, it was just dark and everyone was just on computers playing games and you didn't know...not having done it you didn't know what that really meant. You thought it was gambling," he recalled.
The warrants indicate that in three locations alone, $21,452.52 was found. 164 monitors, 193 computers and 23 machines were also among the evidence found.
However the amount is not surprising to store owners like Debbie Hill who said simply, "I'd expect it to be more."
Many of the store owners that are close to these cafe's say it is not the first time their neighbors have been busted.
"I think it's a little crazy that they keep getting opened up, shut down, opened back up," shares Hill.
The warrants also explain that the games and they way the operations were conducted, were similar in all of the cafes.
Tim Hatcher says that these cafes seem to never go away.
"They are going to go from here to there, and they are going to stay there going, there's just no hope," he said.
Store owners are trying to remain cautiously optimistic, but for now, those like Deborah Hatcher say they are just happy to not deal with the late hours, trash, and limited parking.
"I'm just glad that," Hatcher expresses, "That kind of crowd isn't hanging around anymore."
Many hope that the cafes stay closed for good, and that justice is served.
As of now no arrests have been made, but if a person is charged, they could be hit with illegal gambling and money laundering.