Chinese Internet Cafes aren't the best place for minors; so much so that legally they're not allowed to let them in. Unfortunately for Chinese parents, there are a few "black" Internet cafes that operate unscrupulously. Luckily, one mother was able to win her fight against a conscienceless net cafe.
On Thursday, the Guangzhou Daily reported that a group of internet cafes in Foshan, Guangdong province were raided by the police for conducting "illegal" business. Eight illegally operated net cafes were shut down and 15 suspects were detained by the police. The cafes were shut down because they didn't have any business licenses and they were allowing young children in.
The police raid was authorised as a result of an investigation following a post written by a mother desperate to "save her son". The woman, whose son is still a minor, was at her wits' end with her son's gambling habit, which he had developed by playing an online slot machine game at the internet cafe.
According to the woman, her son had started visiting an internet cafe to play games with his friends. Over the course of his visits, the boy started getting attached to the cafe, spending most of his time there. He would steal money and various smaller electronic devices to] pay for his net cafe expenses.
The mother said she visited the net cafe and asked the owners not to allow her son in anymore. Sadly, her request was denied, and she was also asked to leave so as not to disturb the other customers.
The mother's post was sent to police by socially conscious netizens, and the police went and did their thing. It's unknown if the minor is back home being weened off his "gambling" habit, but hopefully he'll be more careful in the future.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.
[未成年儿子混迹黑网吧 绝望妈妈发帖求解救] [Guangdong Daily via Tencent]
The Senate approved House Bill 7, which essentially would ban the businesses, sending the measure to the desk of Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to sign it. The new law would go into effect 90 days after receiving his signature.
The measure passed both houses despite objections from two local lawmakers, Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria.
North Ridgville Mayor David Gillock, a Republican who has spoken on behalf of Internet cafes in the past, could not be reached for comment. However, he previously said the businesses, which the city regulates, bring in more than $100,000 annually for the city from licenses and fees.
The newly approved legislation would set sweepstake prize limits at $10, which supporters of the businesses said would put them out of operation. Because of the small prizes, customers would not want to play, they argued.
North Ridgeville Law Director Andrew Crites said the new law will severely restrict but not actually ban the businesses.
“It appears to us that it will be up to the individual cafe owners to decide if they will try to survive under these new, very limiting restrictions,” Crites said. “At this time, the city of North Ridgeville does not plan to devote limited resources to police the establishments in our jurisdiction for compliance with the new restrictions.
“As is referenced in the house bill, the state has avenues and agencies in place to enforce their new regulations, and we welcome and shall not impede their efforts to do so. What we do not intend to do is allow this to be interpreted as another unfunded mandate from Columbus to drain our continually strained operating budgets.”
While many Lorain County officials said they would have preferred other options to the restrictions passed, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine applauded the approach. DeWine has been leading a crackdown on Internet cafes in Cuyahoga County that he alleges operated illegally.
“I applaud the actions of both chambers of the General Assembly to make clear the distinction between legitimate sweepstakes and the illegal gambling taking place at Internet cafes across Ohio,” DeWine said. “This clarity will make it easier for local law enforcement to enforce Ohio law. I look forward to Gov. Kasich signing these bills very soon.”
The second bill DeWine referenced was companion legislation that prohibits new Internet cafes from opening, effective immediately upon the governor’s signature.
Internet cafes have computers with games that resemble slot machines. Critics call the games gambling, while proponents say they are predetermined sweepstakes. Customers buy phone and Internet cards that give them time to play on the computers running the games. The businesses have been around for several years, but officials, including Ohio courts, had differing views of whether the games were forms of gambling that should be outlawed.
Critics of the Internet cafes said they could attract crime, including money laundering.
“I don’t think it is reasonable or fair,” Rep. Lundy said of the new law. “We often get rid of bad actors in all kinds of industries without making every single other business suffer.”
Lundy, Manning and Gillock have said they would have favored stronger regulation of the industry instead of banning it.
“I think we could have found a more reasonable and fair approach,” Lundy said. We could have weeded out the bad actors and kept other Internet cafes open that are operating properly.”
Manning said she never heard of problems locally with illegal activity at Internet cafes.
“Some people are talking about all the illegal activities going on at them,” she said. “I’ve talked to the people in our district. They said there’s none going on. I just spoke with Mayor Gillock before the vote. He said we’re not having any problems at all.”
Manning said she feared closing the businesses would hurt honest business operators and their customers.
“I hate to see them close up because I talk to a lot of people who go there,” she said. “They say that for $20, they have a good time with their friends.”
“The losers here are the residents who want the Internet cafes, the shopping centers that will now have vacant storefronts, the business owners, the people who work for the Internet cafes, and the communities that generate additional dollars from the Internet cafes,” he said. “The only winner I see in the picture is the casinos. They got what they wanted. They flexed their muscle.”
Statewide, 6,000 jobs could be lost when the Internet cafes close, Lundy estimated, citing figures provided by the industry.
However, it’s possible this won’t be the last that is heard of the Internet cafe issue. Both state legislators said a lawsuit and an effort to put an issue on the ballot to legalize Internet cafes are likely to follow.
“I think what you’ll end up seeing is a legal fight,” Lundy said. “You’ll probably end up seeing a referendum and letting the voters of Ohio decide.”
Manning said that is one of her concerns. She thought that regulating the existing Internet cafes was a better decision than banning them and having a ballot issue appear before voters that could set lax restrictions on the cafes in the future.
See more North Ridgeville news at cleveland.com/north-ridgeville.
More Bay-Village stories
Regular internet cafes, no, traditional internet cafes, feel so yesteryear. Yes, customers can come in with their own laptops and tablets for the WiFi, but the cafes still have desktops that they expect the customers to use. An internet cafe in Senegal has decided to put those big machines away and have tablets instead, and Google is helping them trial the concept.
Google posted about the project on its blog yesterday saying the tablet model would result in significant savings for the cafe. “Tablets consume much less power than desktops or laptops, and don’t require ventilation.” said in the post. Which is true of course. Tablets are also getting cheaper by the day; much faster than their desktop grand parents. And this is especially so for tablets running Google’s own operating system, Android.
It’ll be interesting to see if this succeeds, but we think it’s a model that can be adopted in the wider Africa. We imagine it’s a great model for cafes looking to provide services in low income rural communities where there’s no national grid electricity, and where people cannot afford to buy their own internet enabled devices.
image credit: Google
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio lawmakers on Wednesday delivered a fatal blow to Internet cafes.
The Senate voted in favor of House Bill 7, effectively banning Internet cafes in the state. Gov. John Kasich is on board with the decision and will sign the bill once it reaches his desk, his spokesman said.
Moments before lawmakers took the vote, Sen. Bill Seitz delivered what he called the industry's eulogy.
"Today it is my privilege to give the eulogy for the 6,000 to 8,000 people that will be put out of work by the adoption of this measure," said the Cincinnati Republican, who cast a no vote.
"The biggest flaw in this bill is that it takes the approach 'shoot 'em all and let God sort it out,'" Seitz said.
Seitz suggested Internet cafes be regulated instead of wiped out, adding that communities could benefit from cafe revenues. Putting an end to the cafes only serves "the convenience of prosecutors who don't want to go through the trouble of separating the wheat from the chaff," he said.
The measure passed with a bipartisan vote of 27-6.
Internet cafes operate by selling Internet time or phone cards and in return offer free chances to win cash on computer games that often resemble slot machines. The businesses have survived in a legal gray area.
The 6th District Ohio Court of Appeals ruled that Internet cafes are legal businesses that offer sweepstakes promotions. The 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals contradicted the decision and ruled several cafes were operating as illegal gambling houses.
The 8th District ruling bolstered Attorney General Mike DeWine's crackdown on the cafes.
In April, federal, state and local police raided six Internet cafes in Cuyahoga County under DeWine's lead.
Sen. Jim Hughes on Wednesday echoed DeWine's fervor, linking Internet cafes to money laundering, fraud, and drug and human trafficking.
"Although these cafes provide a source of income for some... Internet cafes harm more people than do good," Hughes said.
Joe Rice, a Cleveland-area Internet cafe advocate, said the businesses he's visited in Cuyahoga County are not ripe for crime.
"The clientele I've seen is a bunch of retirees who are enjoying themselves. I don't see [Internet cafes] as anything sinister," Rice said. "There might be some that are not savory, but if you regulate it, you can screen out the bad apples."
Rice said the caf owners he represents will explore legal options to keep their businesses afloat.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty sees the crippling of Internet cafes as a success.
"These 500 illegal, unregulated, corner gambling parlors have been making tens of millions of dollars by swindling their poor, elderly, and vulnerable slot players," McGinty said in a statement. He credited DeWine and Ohio public safety director Tom Charles who he said "refused to be intimidated by big money or politics. They and their investigators were determined to end the exploitation."
A voter-led initiative to repeal HB 7 could be the Internet cafe industry's last hope.
"Our next step is referendum. That's the only plausible option," said Michael Nelson, a Cleveland attorney who represents a handful of cafe owners. "We lost this round, but there are other options for us."
Senate Bill 115, a companion to HB 7 that would extend an existing moratorium on new Internet cafes, passed the House Wednesday with a vote of 76-14. The bill included an emergency clause that would ensure the bill takes effect immediately following the governor's signature. The moratorium would extend through June 2014.
On Twitter: @BlackwellTweets
After hearing sometimes tearful testimony from owners and employees of Internet cafes, members of the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee voted Tuesday in favor of legislation that would ban the businesses. Four of the committee's 11 members voted against House Bill 7 -- not enough to keep it from moving to the Senate floor Wednesday for a vote.
The contentious legislation, which moved through committee without amendments, could end up on the governor's desk this week.
"At the end of the day, the conclusion was the bill that we were given best answered the question that was before us," said Sen. Dave Burke, the committee's chairman. "Adding other things to it or taking it and changing it would not have added value to the bill that we had.
Burke said due process will decide if banning Internet cafes is the right move.
The businesses have been scrutinized for what investigators call illegal activity, including money laundering. Internet cafes operate by selling Internet time or phone cards, and in return offer free chances to win cash on computer games that resemble slot machines.
Opponents of HB 7 say the businesses provide a strictly legal and valuable service.
"The customers that come into our cafes are older and come into the cafe not just to take part in the sweepstakes, but also to have social time with their friends," said Tammy Mathia, an Alliance Internet cafe owner. "We have never had any illegal activity in our stores, ever. If we even hear customers use curse words, we ask them to leave."
More than 6,000 Ohio jobs would be lost if HB 7 passes, Mathia said.
The state has an estimated 800 Internet cafes.
Michael Nelson, a Cleveland-area lawyer who represents multiple Internet cafe owners, said he is hoping legislators will change their mind Wednesday on the Senate floor, but won't count on one.
"I'm disappointed in the decision to ban instead of regulate," Nelson said. "I would hope that small businesses in Ohio would be protected. Cafe owners have been maligned unfairly."
A voter-led drive for referendum could keep Internet cafes open. Such an initiative could stall HB 7 from taking effect until fall 2014.
"I think there are various directions that this could go. Of course we still have it going to the Senate floor and the governor's office," Burke said. "There's a judicial process that could play out. There's ballot initiatives that could play out. None of which, by the way, I think are negative. This is a very complicated issue."
While Senate lawmakers moved on HB 7, members of the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee unanimously voted in favor of extending an existing moratorium on Internet cafes. Senate Bill 115, which will move Wednesday to the House floor, includes an emergency clause that will bypass the traditional 90-day period between when the governor signs legislation and when it takes effect. The clause will throttle the expansion of Internet cafes in the state while the fate of HB 7 waits is decided.
The current moratorium on Internet cafes would expire June 30. SB 115 would ban new Internet cafes for another year.
TAMPA — House Bill 155 was designed to sweep the state of illegal gambling cafes, and it worked. Internet cafes from Jacksonville to Key West have closed.
But the law's wide net appears to have caught some unintended prey: restaurants, bowling alleys and skating rinks. Chuck E. Cheese's and Dave Buster's. Even Disney World may be a violator.
Experts say the language of the new law throws nearly all arcade games in the state of Florida into a gray area, leaving many business owners worried their games might not be legal. And to make matters worse, there appears to be no state agency where they can get a definitive answer to these questions.
Gov. Scott to sign bill today that bans Internet cafes
Florida Senate moves closer to outlawing slots-like games
Law firm's strategies in mortgage holders' struggles provoke ethics issues
State Rep. Peter Nehr new Internet sweepstakes cafe exists in legal grey area
Florida House votes to ban Internet cafes
"It's a very confusing thing," said Anthony Perrone, owner of Pin Chasers. Each of his three bowling centers in the Tampa Bay area has an arcade.
"Our guard is up and we are watching the situation," he said. "We will do what's asked of us."
Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, a co-sponsor of the bill to outlaw Internet cafes, told the Tampa Bay Times he believes either the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is in charge of enforcement. But officials at each of those agencies say that's wrong.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said the law is the responsibility of the State Attorney's Office. The state attorney told the Times to talk to local law enforcement.
One possible reason for the confusion: The ban on Internet cafes came into being quickly in the wake of an investigation that led to the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had ties to an Internet gaming organization authorities said was masquerading as a veterans charity. Lawmakers reacted with lightning speed.
"This bill was railroaded through the Legislature so fast — I mean warp speed — that there was no time taken to understand how this was being done," said Michael Wolf, an attorney for the Florida Arcade and Bingo Association. His group has filed a lawsuit challenging the law.
• • •
Brian Cherry is a partner at United Skates of America, a skating rink and arcade in Tampa that has been in business for more than a half-century. He has 33 arcade games.
"I don't want to be doing anything that's not legal," Cherry said.
And there's the rub. While the law targeted Internet cafes, it also included rules that have existed for decades, but apparently were never enforced:
• All arcade games must be coin-operated, which means games operated by a swipe card are illegal.
• Prizes per game can't be worth more than 75 cents.
• Arcades must have at least 50 machines. Experts said this was created years ago to outlaw backroom gambling machines.
But the biggest concern is a new stipulation that requires all "amusement games or machines" to be games of "skill."
That word — skill — "from a legal standpoint, is a huge, huge change," said Marc Dunbar, an adjunct law professor at Florida State University and a lawyer who focuses on gaming and governmental law.
The law says machines cannot be "casino-style games in which the outcome is determined by factors unpredictable by the player or games in which the player may not control the outcome of the game through skill."
What exactly is a "casino-style" machine?
Dunbar thinks any game that is not purely skill-based, such as air hockey, basketball or Skee-Ball, is in question.
"Was that what the Legislature intended? I doubt it," he said. "But the words on the page are the words on the page."
Dave Buster's, a restaurant-arcade with locations throughout Florida, told the Times it is working with law enforcement to understand the law.
"As we understand it, this legislation is not intended to target restaurant and entertainment companies such as Dave Buster's, Disney and others who operate games of skill," the company said in a statement.
Chuck E. Cheese's, with 26 locations in Florida, said it is taking steps "to ensure that none of our games violate these regulations; which, in any event, we believe are not intended to apply to our business."
On Wednesday at a Clearwater Chuck E. Cheese's, Shawn Lane played Skee-Ball while babysitting a 4-year-old. Lane started with $10 worth of tokens.
"He loves it so much, and I came here all the time as a kid," said Lane, 35, clutching a plastic baggie of tickets. "It'd be absolutely stupid to make it illegal. This is good, American fun."
• • •
Rep. Trujillo acknowledges the law casts a wide net. But Skee-Ball is fine, he said. So are hunting games and driving games.
"Is there one possible game that might not be in compliance? Maybe," he said. "But it's not going to shut down Chuck E. Cheese's."
Unless the language is changed, it appears local law enforcement is in charge of interpreting the law. Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon says business owners should contact the agency with any questions.
But this isn't a priority, he said.
"We are not going to be out running through Chuck E. Cheese's or school carnivals looking for violators," he said. "I don't think that was the intent of the law."
Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Danielle Paquette contributed to this report.
The busts occurred at around 3 p.m., Thursday, when Woodland police joined members of the state Department of Justice and the Yolo County High Tech Task Force in serving search warrants to businesses at 1810 E. Main St. and 825 East St.
Both sites were secured without incident, police said. One arrest was made, and computers and money were seized as evidence from both locations.
Both places were "open store fronts," said Sgt. Steve Guthrie of the Woodland Police Department. "I guess the best label for them would be an Internet cafe."
That is the label state prosecutors are using in an ongoing crackdown on a relatively new crime: illegal gambling establishments, using computers as slot machines, that are "popping up everywhere."
Guthrie said Woodland police believe the two businesses raided Thursday are connected. But whether all the gambling operations nationwide are connected to a single crime ring "is probably yet to be determined," said James Parker, special agent in charge of the Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control in Northern California.
"We're actively shutting them down as we get requests from local agencies," he said. "They are popping up everywhere."
Parker said the businesses, generally referred to as "Internet cafes," are working "under the guise that they're operating'sweepstakes.' And we've determined that they are illegal."
Whether the operations are truly illegal remains somewhat in dispute, with legal judgments in other states falling on both sides of the line. But for California's Department of Justice, "sweepstakes" is a code word for computerized gambling, Parker said, and "the computers are basically like small slot machines."
Gamblers at Internet cafes go to a cashier where they exchange money for a card, Parker said. They then swipe the cards at computer terminals uploaded with certain software, "and you start gambling," he said. "If you win they pay you, if you lose, you have to re-up your card."
Other than the computers and software, very little is needed to run the operations. In Woodland on Friday, the two closed businesses were empty except for a few tables and chairs.
The business at 1810 E. Main St., located right next to the Department of Motor Vehicles, had little to identify it besides a small tarp featuring the logos of high-tech companies like Google and Facebook.
More on this story will be published in Saturday's print edition of The Daily Democrat.
TRACY -- An Antioch man who is the proprietor of an Internet sweepstakes cafe is under investigation for allegedly running an illegal gambling operation out of the business, police said Wednesday.
Special Investigations Unit detectives served a search warrant Tuesday at Computer Crazy, located at 1200 W. 11th St., in Tracy, Sgt. Alex Neicu said. The business opened in November and drew the attention of law enforcement after suspicious activity began to be reported in January, Neicu said.
The owner of the business, who was not identified, has not been arrested, police said.
The owner's residence in the 2400 block of Vallecito Court in Antioch also was searched, Neicu said. The two searches netted approximately 100 computers used for gambling and more than $65,000 in cash, Neicu said. Other evidence not released by police also indicated an illegal gambling operation was going on, Neicu said.
"We continue to follow up on the leads we have, and we are continuing to collect evidence," Neicu said.
Police surveillance of the business has indicated "criminal elements" frequented the store and was beginning to affect the safety of the shopping center where it's located, Neicu said. Police have been called to the business on reports of narcotics violations, fights and other disturbances during the past four months, Neicu said.
Internet cafes sell time or phone cards in conjunction with "promotional sweepstakes," which givecustomers an opportunity to win money through gambling-themed games on the computer. The state Attorney General's Office considers those games to be illegal gambling, Neicu said.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.
Arrested were Clark Yanez, 23, of Front Street in Paterson; Rubin Vasquez, 36, of Smith Street, Perth Amboy; and Fernando Puelles, 35, Carlos Salazar, 26, and Leonardo Alcade, 25, all of Paterson.
Police met with a woman who owns the Maria Multi Service Computer Store at Central Avenue at Paterson Avenue on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., said Capt. Edgar Martinez.
The owner said that Yanez entered the cafe and asked to use one of the computers, and a moment later asked to use the restroom.
At that point, Vasquez and Puelles walked in and approached the owner behind the register, Martinez said. Police said Vasquez then pulled out a knife, pushed the owner to the ground yelling, "I know where you live. I will kill you."
Reports said that Puelles then grabbed cash from the register and put the money into a black book bag before the three men fled in a Chrysler Pacific SUV, heading west on Paterson Avenue.
Police stopped the SUV at Spruce and Market streets in Paterson and the men were taken into custody at 7:52 p.m. Saturday, Martinez said.
Police recovered the knife they believe was used in the robbery and $12,099 cash, reports said.
Yanez, who had an outstanding warrant from Middlesex County, was found to have three bags of suspected cocaine in his right pocket, police said.