By Dawn Krebs
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- At the beginning of April, adult arcades across the county boasted full parking lots and happy patrons.
Now, a few weeks after Governor Rick Scott signed the bill passed by lawmakers banning the arcades, the businesses sit quiet and empty.
Approximately a dozen arcades in the county were affected by the bill that banned not only Internet cafes, but the adult arcades as well.
The bill was a reaction from the state legislature after it was discovered that one particular Internet café, Allied Veterans of the World, that stated it was giving its profits to veterans was actually doing very little for the military group.
Despite protests from the businesses owners and the patrons who attend the arcades, the bill was signed into law on April 10.
The bill, HB 155, gives local law enforcement specific definitions of illegal gambling machines and how to handle suspected violations.
On April 17, the Indian River County Sheriff's Office had detectives start the process of notifying staff and management at arcade establishments in Indian River County.
According to the Sheriff's Office, investigators have been distributing informational flyers. Arcade owners were also urged to contact their own legal counsel about future operations, as the Sheriff's Office will not be giving legal advice to the owners.
It was stated that enforcement of the new law will not take place during this notification process and until any ambiguity in the law is cleared and businesses have the opportunity to come into compliance.
Thomas Raulen, public information officer for the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, said that Indian River County has found that most arcades are not disruptive to the community and that calls for service at the arcades are not out of proportion with any other business being operated in the county.
"As with any new law which governs such activity, there will likely be a period of adjustment to determine what activity actually violates the statute," he said in a press release.
"Each establishment's procedures and gaming devices will be evaluated individually, and investigators will be coordinating with the State Attorney's Office before enforcement action is taken to ensure any response is appropriate."