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Internet Cafes in Utah Raided for Possible Illegal Gambling

11 March 2011 by admin

Earlier this week West Valley City police raided an Internet café by the name of City Cyber Café. This is the third raid on this company in the last few months. The raids are happening to the Internet café’s three locations because of how they run their business. It is believed by local officials that the three City Cyber Cafes in West Valley City, South Ogden and Layton are operating illegal online gambling while they say they are only providing phone cards and internet services.

Online gambling is illegal in Utah. No exceptions. Now businesses are able to offer sweepstakes so long as that is not the business’s main purpose for business or its main point of revenue. According to statements made by Cyber City Café’s attorney, Jerome Mooney, the primary business function of the Cyber City Cafes is to sell phone cards and internet time. Cyber City Cafes, like most internet cafes, sells time that patrons can purchase to use on the on-site terminals to access the internet. Think of it as pay as you go internet usage. In addition to general internet access, patrons can use their purchased internet time to play various games, including sweepstakes games.

The problem that Utah is having with the three Cyber City Cafes is that they believe that it is not sweepstakes games being offered, and that the Cyber City Cafes’ appearance of being ordinary internet cafes is a front to cover the real truth—that they are in fact offering fringe gambling. Last year a law was passed in Utah to define what constituted as fringe gambling and to prohibit it. Fringe gambling is defined in Utah as “any gambling, lottery, or video gaming device…given, conducted, or offered for use or sale by a business in exchange for anything of value; or given away incident to the purchase of other goods or services.”

In short, businesses in Utah cannot offer a means for players to gamble. It is the belief of local politicians that Cyber City is only posing as an internet café and that they are really only offering patrons games that are reminiscent of video slot machines and keno games to win a cash prize.

And Cyber City does indeed offer sweepstakes games on their terminals to their patrons. Whoever collects the most points in the game wins the prize. But sweepstakes games are not the only service offered; patrons can use the terminals for general internet surfing.

The raid on the West Valley City location happened at the same time as a raid on a similar but unaffiliated internet café called Digital Connection, At the end of the double raid sixty seven people being detained, and the seizing of eighty terminals, five servers and other electronics believed to connected what the local police believe to be online gambling related equipment.

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