Internet cafe reopens on Merritt Island no longer giving prizes

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MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. —

An Internet cafe on Merritt Island is back in business after being shut down for months due to a statewide crackdown.

The major change, however, at the Coconuts Internet Café is that there are no prizes. Patrons can only play games, use the Internet or socialize.

The owner of the establishment still hasn't taken down his sweepstakes sign from when he closed for business in April, but customers who came in didn't stay long after finding out there were no prizes to win.

For $10, customers can access the Internet to surf the Web or amuse themselves with familiar games but it isn't enough to keep customers like Jim Turner happy.

"It was a social thing but it's not worth it for me to come and pay and use the Internet when I can do that from home," said Turner.

After a massive investigation into the Allied Veteran's Internet Cafes that led to more than 50 arrests and the resignation of Florida's lieutenant governor, new legislation was passed in April that banned electronic casino-like games and imposed new restrictions on arcade games.

"The law is so broad that it doesn't tell you what's right or not and a lot of owners are afraid to re-open. They don't want to do anything wrong," said Coconuts owner Ming Chen.

For Chen, that meant the transformation of his business to more of a social club.

"You pay a fee to have some fun," he said. "That's exactly what we're trying to do right now."

Chen said Internet cafe and arcade owners are challenging the state law that shuttered their businesses.