Internet Cafés Continue to Bedevil Two States

Ohio law enforcement is playing a game of whack-a-mole to shut down various skill game and internet café locations in the state. And authorities in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California last week raided two internet cafes and confiscated their computers.

The removal of internet cafés are proving to be more difficult that first thought.

The position of Ohio’s law enforcement community is that the Buckeye state’s residents have enough legal venues to gamble, they shouldn’t need to play illegal ones too.

But despite the best efforts of lawmakers and police, many Ohio “skill game,” and “internet cafes” continue to proliferate.

Last week Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission told the panel that such operations flourish in cities and rural areas. The commission is working with state and local police to identify these locations and close them.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, long an opponent of skill games and internet cafes, recently oversaw a raid of “House of Skills” in the Mahoning County. Authorities confiscated 54 machines.

What makes the games illegal is when cash payments of more than $10 are involved. Often they operate as storefronts purporting to be something else.

Penalties for operating such facilities are increasing. Currently you can go to jail for up to a year for a first violation and 18 months for a second.

Meanwhile, Southern California police last week followed suit on raids that have been conducted for several months ago in Northern California and shut down two so-called internet cafes in Covina after raiding them, claiming that they were engaged in illegal internet gambling.

Police arrested two people in closely coordinated raids and confiscated more than 70 computers in the San Gabriel Valley community.

In one of the stores, called Quick Connect, the store manager was arrested. Police alleged that the operation’s claim to sell computer and cell phone hardware was actually a front for illegal slot machines.

According to one TV report, the store would collect money from customers and covert the cash into points that could be used on a computer with a PIN number. Customers played on the machines and converted points back into cash.

The other store raided, Tel Expo, was operating a similar business, although its method was through a phone card, which could also be used on a computer to play slot games and online poker. The owner was arrested and 40 computers were seized at that location.

Police in the Golden State have become more active regarding internet cafes in the wake of an advisory by the California Bureau of Gaming control that the games are illegal.