Internet Cafes and Bingo

In 2006 the United States passed draconian legislation against online gambling. Enforcement was lax for a few years but for some reason the Obama administration suddenly decided to enforce the laws against online gambling. Poker sites were seized and one major bingo network went out of business. US officials actually seized one online bingo site. No reasons were given for the sudden actions and no explanation has been forthcoming from the Obama administration.

Enter Internet Cafes

After the passage of legislation banning online gambling many turned to internet cafes for their gambling fix. Basically internet cafes provide internet access for a fee and may charge by the hour or the minute. To make things even more interesting many internet cafes run private raffles and lotteries. Customers also have access to online slots and in some cases online bingo. The gaming activities at internet cafes have attracted the attention of authorities in many states.

In 2009 a man from Salt Lake City was charged with running illegal bingo games. Undercover agents discovered that customers were playing cash bingo online. The investigation lasted nine months and resulted in felony charges against the proprietor. During one visit undercover officers observed fifteen active computer screens that were not connected to the internet but displayed online bingo screens with the odds of winning and the payouts. Officers played a number of 25 cent bingo cards and filed charges. One officer was able to cash in his bingo winnings. On the day that officers served a search warrant fourteen people were playing cash bingo online.

Internet Cafes & The Authorities

Internet cafes have posed a problem for local authorities in many states. Authorities in many jurisdictions say the sweepstakes games and online bingo games are illegal. Some authorities say that internet cafes are designed to skirt gambling laws. Anti gambling groups have been very outspoken about their opposition to internet cafes. Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling told reporters “What we’ve seen a lot with these Internet sweepstakes cafes is it’s a way to get around gambling laws. The only reason people are going to these facilities and spending so much time and money is because it’s gambling. If it wasn’t gambling, it wouldn’t be popular.”

In many states the gambling laws are vague and legislators have proposed new laws to regulate the activities at internet cafes. Owners of internet cafes say that the sweepstakes games they offer are not really gambling. Ultimately the courts will decide who is right.

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