Supporters rally against bills that would shut down internet cafes and video arcades
10:25 PM, Mar 17, 2013
6:25 AM, Mar 18, 2013
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla - Sylvia Rosen, a 69-year-old Port St. Lucie resident, provides full-time care for her husband, who has stage four cancer. Her favorite way to forget her problems is to play a quick game at the local video arcade.
"It's a way to find a little peace with other folks, and have some sanity," said Rosen. "I've made so many friends there."
Anthony McArthur, a Port St. Lucie resident who admits to being an ex-convict, said video arcades help him stay out of trouble.
"Young people now are in these arcades, instead of out here in the streets," he explained. "I don't hustle anymore, because I just go play games."
Mickey Gallo, a Port St. Lucie grandmother, brings her family when she goes gaming.
"We come here to be with our friends," said Gallo. "(Legislators) have no right whatsoever to tell us not to do it."
But that is exactly what could happen, if Florida lawmakers pass a bill banning internet cafes and video arcades.
The move has been fast-tracked, following high-profile arrests of industry officials in a gambling probe last week.
The House gaming committee already approved the ban, and the Senate gaming committee will take up the bill Monday morning.
Those bills - HB 155 and SB 1030 - had arcade fans taking to the streets Sunday afternoon along U.S. Highway 1 in two different locations, chanting "Save the arcades, save the arcades!"
Vicki Lush, owner of the Jackpot Fever arcade in Port St. Lucie, said video arcades operate differently than internet cafes, so she doesn't think it's right for the two to be lumped together.
"I always wanted my own entertainment facility and to help older people," said Lush. "That's how it worked out. But now, they're trying to take it away."
Lush picked up the phone and told her customers the only way she could think to get lawmakers' attention was to protest.
"Thousands of jobs are going to be lost," Lush explained. "It's going to put us out of business, as of next week, if they pass this bill. We pay taxes, the internet doesn't pay taxes. We employ people, and it's a trickle-down effect."