LEE COUNTY, Fla. - It's been two months since a law banning gambling arcades in Florida went into effect. Owners and employees feared they'd be closed for good. But, we found some are still operating, just in a different way.
"They cry about it. They do. It's a sad thing," Vegas Knights owner Ron Pullan said. "We said we'd stay open as long as we could because they like coming in."
Once alive with customers and the sounds of gaming machines, Vegas Knights in North Fort Myers is anything but a full house these days. "It's really affected the senior citizens," Pullan said. "I get 60 calls a day, wanting to know if they can come in and play. Of course they can but I can't give them anything."
Pullan said for 5 years, he never got complaints. But, the passage of Florida House Bill 155, Prohibition of electronic gambling devices, changed everything. His games still cost money, but players don't win anything. Two months ago, he made around $1,300 a day. Now, he might bank $35.
"It hurt a lot of people, hurt a lot of employees," Pullan said. "A lot of employees are going down for unemployment. It's just the tip of the iceberg for what's going to happen."
Despite a hit, he and others are determined to stay open. Vegas III Casino in Cape Coral just re-opened Wednesday. They've transitioned machines to operate with tokens. According to the law, only games that require skills are allowed, machines must be coin-operated and prizes are limited to 75 cents per win. Just like an adult Chuck E. Cheese's, players can redeem prizes like televisions, rather than cash.
But, not everyone has been lucky. Treasure Island Sweepstakes in Fort Myers had to shut down, soon to become a City Vapor shop.
As for Vegas Knights, they're open for now. But, Pullan says, he's getting offers to re-open in other states.
"I'm hanging on as long as I can," Pullan said. "I'm hoping things will change and if they don't, then I have no choice. These people aren't going to be gracious forever. They are going to want their money."