Slot machines have snuck into U.S. shopping malls, along with money laundering, bribery, shootouts, and billions in profits
side a one-story building on the edge of a strip mall in Central Florida, Joy Baker calculates the sum total of her morning bets. It's almost noon, and she's down $5. Not bad. Her husband, Tony, sits a few feet away. "This is the most fun we've had in 20 years," says Joy, who is 78 and retired. "At our age, we can't hike. You can't pay him to go to the movies. This gives us a reason to get up in the morning."
Tony concurs. "We enjoy this," he says. "We will be very bitter if the politicians take this away from us. I will take it personally."
It's a Wednesday morning in mid-March, and the Bakers are sitting inside Jacks, a new type of neighborhood business that is flourishing in shopping malls throughout Florida—and across America. Jacks bills itself as a "Business Center and Internet Cafe," but it looks more like a pop-up casino.
Jacks is about the size of a neighborhood deli. There is a bar next door and a convenience store around the corner. Inside, jumbo playing cards decorate the walls. The room is filled with about 30 desktop computers. Here and there, men and women sit in office chairs and tap at the computers. They are playing "sweepstakes" games that mimic the look and feel of traditional slot machines. Rows of symbols—cherries, lucky sevens, four-leaf clovers—tumble with every click of the mouse.