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Utah and Massachusetts Disagree on Internet Cafes and Online Gaming

11 March 2011 by admin

This morning I talked about the three internet cafes in Utah who have all been given a hard time by local law enforcement and local politicians. It is believed that they are offering online gambling, which is illegal in Utah (I think just about everything is illegal in Utah) by way of offering sweepstakes games that resemble slots and blackjack and keno to their patrons.

The three internet cafes, all belonging to the same unnamed individual based in Florida and all with the same name of Cyber City Café, sell phone cards and internet services. Patrons can purchase time and then use the cafes’ computer terminals to surf the internet or play the cafes’ sweepstakes games for points. The more points a patron earns, the closer he is to winning the prize, which at one Cyber City Café was $3,000.

Jerome Mooney, the attorney for the Utah Cyber City Cafes, has stated that the internet cafes are not solely funded by money from players buying time to play the sweepstakes games, which puts the Cyber City Cafes under the exemption of Utah anti-gambling law. Utah law prohibits businesses from offering gambling as its sole means of income and business purpose. But providing patrons with the ability to surf the internet with the game time they purchase, they should fall into exemption. After all there is nothing in any of the Cyber City Cafes that is forcing patrons to play the sweepstakes games.

And this is the attitude that Massachusetts is taking. Cyber City Café LLC has reopened its Springfield, Massachusetts location after Attorney Nathan LaVallee ruled in a city hearing that Cyber City Café was not operating a gambling front. The Springfield location had been closed by the state because it was believed that they were operating a gambling establishment without the proper licenses. LaVallee ruled that Cyber City Café’s sweepstakes was not a gambling front and while “the computer terminal’s entertaining games may easily be construed as such by a layman” they were not slot machines or any other form of gambling device.

Now given that Massachusetts can have such an enlightened and realistic take on the matter, why does Utah continue to persist in its notions that the three Cyber City Cafes there are operating illegal online gambling fronts? If the sweepstakes are set up to be won based on points and not on randomness, then why is there still an issue? Perhaps it is just simple fear that there is something that resembles a slot machine. Guess I will have to hide the slot machine pencil sharpener on my desk if I were to ever move to Utah—do not want them coming after me and my pencil shavings.

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