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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

With Internet cafes causing controversy across the state, a Gainesville resident has voiced her concern about the stores to the city commission.

Kathryn Hillgardner, 43, said she considers Internet cafes a growing problem. Hillgardner, a self-professed former gambling addict, said she lost more than $100,000 at Internet cafes throughout the years and hopes to make other people aware of the potential issues that come with the cafes. She said she hopes to let the community know there is help available if they struggle with the same problems.

“Money does not mean what it did to me,” she said. “If I can reach people and help them overcome what I did, it would be great.”

Internet cafes are locally owned computer hubs where patrons pay for Internet time and are given free “sweepstakes” games that some equate to gambling.

Hillgardner met with Commissioner Randy Wells earlier this week to talk about her concerns. Wells said he admired her for her determination.

However, he said he didn’t know if there was much the city could do legally.

“I appreciate the fact that she has opened up about herself and her experiences,” he said.

Hillgardner said she questions whether the businesses should be considered legitimate businesses.

“They’re really offering the opportunity to gamble,” she said.

About a dozen Internet cafes in Gainesville and Ocala declined to comment

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