Wednesday, September 13

What's an Internet Cafe, By The Way?

I know nobody wants them in their neighborhood. I know there's possibly been some abuse of the law when it comes to them, including some significant charges against a local lawyer. But I just don't get what an internet cafe is in the first place. Or why anyone would want to go there. Then again, I don't get gambling in general, so a non-gambling version of gambling makes even less sense. These places are also called LAN cafes, gaming cafes, or cyber cafe.

As an outsider who has read one article and seen some news reports, my impression of internet cafes is that they are owned by wealthy people, placed in poor neighborhoods, robbed a lot, and may or may not be legal in Florida. They are also not a place where people hang out for free wi-fi, which was my first guess. When I traveled to Europe in 1999, there were many internet coffee shops where you'd pay to use the computers to send emails back home, but that's not the business model here.

Besides getting robbed a lot, they're similar to some of the loan or rent-to-own stores you might have seen. The results are the same, too. People without money dutifully supporting those with money in order to gain the feeling of having accomplished something. It should not really matter to us whether or not some local rich people were stealing extra money while running these places. It should bother us that the places exist in the first place.

I know, people work at the businesses, and people make money off their investments, so it must be good. Not really. These are not tourist attractions, so it's your fellow Floridians who are wasting their time and money playing games that are a lot like gambling. Since I'd wager (if it was legal to do so) that most of the "high-rollers" who show up at internet cafes are just scraping by, it's really you paying for them to gamble away the public assistance you give them in the form of food or medical expenses they can't afford.

Granted, I can't force my own moral pet peeves on others. Just because I believe that gambling is wrong, exploitive, and a waste of time, not everyone will agree. I just see an Internet Cafe as a downstairs business, in that people who own them should be forced to live upstairs of the business. If Jacksonville wanted to clean up many businesses, this would be a unique requirement, akin to shop owners from a century ago. There'd probably be an influx of seedy businesses down in Ponte Vedra. Or none at all. 

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