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An Internet cafe in the Excelsior district that drew the attention of neighbors and city officials because of the criminal element it was attracting has agreed to close its doors within 60 days as part of a lawsuit settlement announced Thursday.

Net Stop, on the 4400 block of Mission Street, billed itself as a "business center" that offered online access as well as printers, fax machines and other services. But city officials said it was actually an Internet cafe that catered to people who were illegally gambling online, and in November the city filed suit. City Attorney Dennis Herrera accused Net Stop of violating state and local gambling laws and creating a public nuisance, in part by driving up crime in the area.

Under the terms of the settlement, Net Stop will close its doors within 6o days and will not operate a similar establishment in San Francisco for five years. Another company, Figure 8, which supplied Net Stop with its gambling software, agreed to stop selling or maintaining gambling software in California for five years and to pay San Francisco $25,000.

"We will move aggressively to protect neighborhoods from anyone who isn't following the law," Herrera said in a statement, adding that the Police Department's work documenting the problems at Net Stop helped the city build its case, and that Supervisor John Avalos' community work also assisted the city attorney's office.

- Marisa Lagos

Freeing up land: A grand plan to destroy much of the Interstate 280 freeway and convert the Caltrain depot and rail yard at Fourth and King streets into a neighborhood of high-rise condos, offices, and retail and entertainment space will get a serious look in a $1.4 million study proposed by city planners.

The study, which is expected to take two years to complete, will look for the best way to transform the three-block-long rail yard into a new neighborhood.

That would happen before the construction of a downtown rail extension to bring Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center, the planned electrification of Caltrain and the uncertain fate the state's high-speed rail system.

And don't forget the cash that opening 20-plus acres of train yard and 17 acres of I-280 right-of-way for development could bring to the city.

"There is potential economic value that could be unlocked by improving the neighborhood environment ... value that could be harnessed to help build the short-funded infrastructure," the city wrote in its request for proposals to do the study.

A preliminary and much-less-detailed study in 2012 suggested that land freed up by moving the rail yard and converting the freeway into a surface-level boulevard at 16th Street near Mariposa could be sold to developers for up to $228 million, an estimate the study described as conservative.

The key is clearing the land, which planners described as "an elevated freeway, a half-mile-long rail yard and street level railroad tracks, all of which were built in a time when the area was primarily an industrial area."

But with the rapid and continuing development of Mission Bay and South Beach, it is, with apologies to the Giants and nearby ATT Park, a whole new ballgame.

The rail yard and freeway divide those growing areas from Potrero Hill and other city neighborhoods.

Whoever gets the contract for the study will be asked to look at the effects of eliminating the freeway; possible sites to relocate the train yard; cheaper, faster and less intrusive ways of building the underground tunnels for Caltrain and high-speed rail; and development possibilities for the new train-free, freeway-less site.

But buried under the high-minded calls for "high-quality urban environment," "holistic approach to the area" and "the best of 21st Century urbanism" is a more mundane concern. The study also has to set a price tag on the proposed changes and determine whether there's any feasible way the city can pay for them.

- John Wildermuth

E-mail: cityinsider@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SFCityInsider

Article source: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Net-Stop-Internet-cafe-to-close-5190858.php

Theo Douglas, The Bakersfield Californian

Nearly two months after joining Bakersfield’s war on Internet cafes — which city officials believe offer illegal gambling — Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, on Wednesday unveiled a bill that would outlaw them in California.

Assembly Bill 1439, which Salas said he introduced in the state legislature on Jan. 6, would add “sweepstakes” to the list of unfair business practices prohibited under state law.

It also would outlaw “gambling-themed” or “simulated gambling electronic video” monitors in a business that “directly or indirectly implements the predetermination of sweepstakes cash, cash-equivalent prizes or other prizes of value … .”

If the bill passes the state legislature and is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown later this year, operating an Internet cafe would then become a misdemeanor crime.

“Any time you try to mimic a casino-style game like slot machines, it is illegal,” Salas said, referring to Internet cafes that use software that is visually similar to slots. “This bill will bring clarity to the law to make these illegal.”

But Internet cafe owner Phillip Walker, who formed the Internet Cafe Association of California, an advisory group for cafe owners throughout the state, said the assemblyman should do what city officials have been doing for months — wait for an appellate court decision on the legality of Internet cafes before acting.

“I know how these things work, and if they’re done right, it is no different than Albertsons or Rite-Aid. All those places have sweepstakes. Coca-Cola has sweepstakes,” said Walker, who owns Oz Internet Cafe Hub. “Maybe it’s illegal, maybe it’s legal, but wait until the court decides.”

Walker compared Internet cafes to McDonald’s restaurant, which offers a legal Monopoly sweepstakes in conjunction with fast food, its better-known product. He said Internet cafes sell a product too, Internet time. City officials argue that Internet cafes offer far more Internet time than anyone could ever use, don’t have a real product, and host illegal gambling.

City Attorney Ginny Gennaro, who attended a press conference to announce the bill at City Hall Wednesday afternoon, said that if it’s passed, AB 1439 would clarify the difference between what Internet cafes allegedly offer, and legal sweepstakes like McDonald’s Monopoly.

Simulated gaming, she said, “and those types of gambling-type facilities would clearly fall under a sweepstakes definition and that would then be an unfair business practice and it would be a misdemeanor under state law.”

The cafes have spread throughout Bakersfield and Kern County. Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez said 30 Internet cafes are currently operating on unincorporated county land, and supervisors have asked county counsel to explore creating an anti-cafe resolution or ordinance.

The Bakersfield City Council’s Safe Neighborhoods and Community Relations Committee will hear an update on Internet cafes Thursday.

Police Chief Greg Williamson said the city currently has 15 Internet cafes open for business — up from an official tally of 13 in November — and considers them magnets for related criminal activity.

“We see evidence of drug use, of violence, we have car break-ins and other thefts in the parking lots of these establishments, and we’ve also seen evidence of prostitution-related crime,” he said.

———

©2014 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)

Visit The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.) at www.bakersfield.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Article source: http://techwire.net/assemblyman-unveils-anti-internet-cafe-bill/

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:18 am

A state ban on Internet cafes last year created confusion for local law enforcement about how to dismantle the businesses, but the City Commission is trying to remedy that.

In a meeting last week, Gainesville city commissioners unanimously approved a six-month ban on zoning permits for Internet cafes per the request of Gainesville Police.

Certain loopholes in the law permitted Gainesville to grant zoning permits to about six cafes, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias, although none are currently operational.

When the state legislature banned all Internet cafes last year, it tasked local law enforcement agencies with keeping tabs on remaining cafes.

“Even though there’s a statewide ban, no one really understands the law yet,” Tobias said.

Tobias said the temporary ban on permits will provide GPD with the time it needs to ensure it is enforcing the law correctly, but it hopes the city will make the ban permanent after six months.

“The legislature and governor thought that this was a big enough problem to enact a new law immediately,” he said. “We all know gambling was at the center of these places. We hope that the city will make a permanent ban… not allowing any of these places to get (zoning) permits.”

City Commissioner Susan Bottcher said she also would like to see the ban become permanent due to difficulties in regulation.

“Unless you want to station a policeman at each of these sites to make sure they’re operating legally and make sure other nefarious conduct isn’t happening,” she said, “because they tend to be highly problematic for law enforcement.”

Bottcher said that the city granted the six permits after the statewide ban only because some owners know how to describe their businesses in a way that circumvents the ban.

“We walk a very fine line between wanting to be open to entrepreneurs who want to open a business here, but we also have to recognize and anticipate when there’s people who deliberately look for loopholes in the law,” she said.

Gainesville City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins agreed that Internet cafes have proved to be problematic for the city and those who frequent them.

“The problems we see with that are robbery, loitering and taking advantage of folks who are not in a good financial position,” he said.

[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 1/23/2014 under the headline "Internet cafe permit ban buys time for local law enforcement"]

  • ARTICLE: Despite new California tuition law, UF has no plans for popular course rate hikes

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:18 am

A state ban on Internet cafes last year created confusion for local law enforcement about how to dismantle the businesses, but the City Commission is trying to remedy that.

In a meeting last week, Gainesville city commissioners unanimously approved a six-month ban on zoning permits for Internet cafes per the request of Gainesville Police.

Certain loopholes in the law permitted Gainesville to grant zoning permits to about six cafes, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias, although none are currently operational.

When the state legislature banned all Internet cafes last year, it tasked local law enforcement agencies with keeping tabs on remaining cafes.

“Even though there’s a statewide ban, no one really understands the law yet,” Tobias said.

Tobias said the temporary ban on permits will provide GPD with the time it needs to ensure it is enforcing the law correctly, but it hopes the city will make the ban permanent after six months.

“The legislature and governor thought that this was a big enough problem to enact a new law immediately,” he said. “We all know gambling was at the center of these places. We hope that the city will make a permanent ban… not allowing any of these places to get (zoning) permits.”

City Commissioner Susan Bottcher said she also would like to see the ban become permanent due to difficulties in regulation.

“Unless you want to station a policeman at each of these sites to make sure they’re operating legally and make sure other nefarious conduct isn’t happening,” she said, “because they tend to be highly problematic for law enforcement.”

Bottcher said that the city granted the six permits after the statewide ban only because some owners know how to describe their businesses in a way that circumvents the ban.

“We walk a very fine line between wanting to be open to entrepreneurs who want to open a business here, but we also have to recognize and anticipate when there’s people who deliberately look for loopholes in the law,” she said.

Gainesville City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins agreed that Internet cafes have proved to be problematic for the city and those who frequent them.

“The problems we see with that are robbery, loitering and taking advantage of folks who are not in a good financial position,” he said.

[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 1/23/2014 under the headline "Internet cafe permit ban buys time for local law enforcement"]

  • ARTICLE: Despite new California tuition law, UF has no plans for popular course rate hikes

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:18 am

A state ban on Internet cafes last year created confusion for local law enforcement about how to dismantle the businesses, but the City Commission is trying to remedy that.

In a meeting last week, Gainesville city commissioners unanimously approved a six-month ban on zoning permits for Internet cafes per the request of Gainesville Police.

Certain loopholes in the law permitted Gainesville to grant zoning permits to about six cafes, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias, although none are currently operational.

When the state legislature banned all Internet cafes last year, it tasked local law enforcement agencies with keeping tabs on remaining cafes.

“Even though there’s a statewide ban, no one really understands the law yet,” Tobias said.

Tobias said the temporary ban on permits will provide GPD with the time it needs to ensure it is enforcing the law correctly, but it hopes the city will make the ban permanent after six months.

“The legislature and governor thought that this was a big enough problem to enact a new law immediately,” he said. “We all know gambling was at the center of these places. We hope that the city will make a permanent ban… not allowing any of these places to get (zoning) permits.”

City Commissioner Susan Bottcher said she also would like to see the ban become permanent due to difficulties in regulation.

“Unless you want to station a policeman at each of these sites to make sure they’re operating legally and make sure other nefarious conduct isn’t happening,” she said, “because they tend to be highly problematic for law enforcement.”

Bottcher said that the city granted the six permits after the statewide ban only because some owners know how to describe their businesses in a way that circumvents the ban.

“We walk a very fine line between wanting to be open to entrepreneurs who want to open a business here, but we also have to recognize and anticipate when there’s people who deliberately look for loopholes in the law,” she said.

Gainesville City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins agreed that Internet cafes have proved to be problematic for the city and those who frequent them.

“The problems we see with that are robbery, loitering and taking advantage of folks who are not in a good financial position,” he said.

[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 1/23/2014 under the headline "Internet cafe permit ban buys time for local law enforcement"]

  • ARTICLE: Despite new California tuition law, UF has no plans for popular course rate hikes



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To see the spaza shop kiosk in action, view this short video clip:

http://www.rightstuff.tv/SpazaShopKiosk.mp4.

Article source: http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/410/70/107816.html

By Jeanne Starmack

starmack@vindy.com

GIRARD

A trial for a man facing gambling charges in Girard Municipal Court will be set in April, though the case could be dismissed.

Adam Syed’s case involving misdemeanor charges could be dismissed, said Girard Municipal Judge Jeffrey Adler, if Syed goes to prison on a felony conviction from charges in Medina County over Internet cafes he owned there.

Syed’s case in Medina was set for trial Jan. 13 but was postponed. A new trial date has not been set, said Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman.

Syed was charged after police raided his Internet cafe on Belmont Avenue in Liberty in February 2013.

A status hearing on the Girard Municipal Court case was postponed in October after Syed’s attorney requested additional evidence from the prosecution.

A status hearing takes place a few weeks before a trial to ensure attorneys have everything they need to proceed, said a spokeswoman in the Girard prosecutor’s office.

Syed has asked for a jury trial.

Internet cafe proponents say their prizes are predetermined, so the element of chance in gambling is not there.

Liberty police said, however, that they gathered enough evidence during a two-week investigation to press charges of running an illegal gambling operation, according to Vindicator files.

Liberty police Capt. Toby Meloro said Syed’s businesses “are shut down everywhere,” and the gaming machines from the Belmont Avenue business would be confiscated and destroyed if he’s convicted.

Article source: http://www.vindy.com/news/2014/jan/22/girard-gambling-case-to-be-set-for-trial/

The Gretna City Council suspended the occupational license of an Internet café Wednesday night, hours after the cafe was raided because of a suspected illegal gambling operation. The council unanimously voted to suspend the license of Lucky Times Internet Café, 64 West Bank Expressway.

Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson told the council that authorities impounded a tractor trailer-load of computer equipment that will be used as evidence in the raid. Narcotics and 115 computer terminals used to play blackjack and roulette were recovered, Lawson said.

Authorities arrested cafe owner Jason Toma, 35, and business manager, Manuel Villagran, 48, both of Michigan. A second owner, Marshall Isso, 50, remained at large late Wednesday, authorities said.

Mayor Belinda Constant supported the suspension of the cafe's license, saying that the owners misrepresented their business, which opened in October, to the city.

But City Attorney Mark Morgan said the owners were entitled to a hearing before the City Council could revoke the business license.

Authorities said the raid was the result of a two-month undercover investigation.

Police say an Internet cafe located in a Gretna shopping center was a front for an illegal gambling operation. Investigators raided the Lucky Times Internet Cafe, 64 West Bank Expressway, just after 10 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 8), Gretna Police Deputy Chief Anthony Christiana said.

Officers simultaneously served search warrants at two residences in New Orleans. Detectives arrested Lucky Times owner Jason Toma, 35, and the business' manager, Manuel Villagran, 48, both of Michigan. Gretna Police were still searching for a second owner, Marshall Isso, 50, as of Wednesday evening.

Investigators found a safe containing a large amount of cash and marijuana at the business, Christiana said. They also located additional drugs at a New Orleans apartment rented by one of the suspects. 

The West Bank Major Crimes Task Force, Gretna Police and the State Police conducted a two-month undercover investigation, Christiana said. They determined the cafe was masquerading as a business where patrons could use the Internet, send faxes or make copies. In reality, the cafe's 90 computer terminals were used for online gambling with games such as black jack, roulette and slot machines, Christiana said.

"It's advertised as 'sweepstakes.' But when you get down to it, it's gambling," Christiana said.

Gretna Police say the owners of Lucky Times Internet Cafe operated an illegal gambling operation from their storefront, 64 West Bank Expressway, Gretna. Detectives raided the location Wednesday (Jan. 8).

The cafe, sandwiched between Rooms To Go and Finish Line Off Track Betting, was comprised of a single, large room with plain, gray walls and rows of tables and computers. The business operated from 7 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., authorities said.

Patrons bought an access number and password along with credits to play games. They could then swipe their card at a terminal and begin gaming. Similar to casinos, players earned credits based on their wagers and wins, Christiana said. They could then "cash out" afterwards.

Detectives determined that players could also access the games offsite, but had to return to the cafe to claim any winnings.

An unidentified woman who walked quickly through the parking lot as Gretna officers boxed up computer terminals inside asked what was going on with her "favorite casino." "I liked it," she said. "It was different."

Different but illegal, according to Christiana.

Internet sweepstakes cafes designed to subvert anti-gambling laws and license requirements have begun popping up all over the country, Christiana said. Authorities estimate the operations generate $10 billion a year, revenue that isn't regulated or taxed.

"This is the first Internet cafe that has been raided in the state of Louisiana, to our knowledge," he said.

The owners made a "crafty" selection of location settling next to The Finish Line Off Track Betting. The business, which opened in October, poached its neighbor's patrons by word-of-mouth and fliers, Christiana said The Finish Line is in no way connected to Lucky Times.

Toma and Villagran, taken into custody at the business, made no comment as Gretna Police walked them to a waiting patrol car Tuesday morning. Christiana said each would be booked with 90 counts of violation of the state's rules regulating gambling by computer, one for each terminal at the cafe.

The department is considering racketeering charges and has contacted law enforcement agencies in Michigan where the suspects have property and bank accounts that may have tied to proceeds from their illegal activities. 

Article source: http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2014/01/gretna_police_raid_illegal_gam.html

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Apache Server at www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk Port 80

Article source: http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/convicted-sex-trafficking-ring-run-Croydon-net/story-20409818-detail/story.html