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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Legislation that would shutter Internet cafes and possibly senior arcades passed the Senate Rules Committee unanimously Tuesday, and the sponsor said he would push for a vote by the full Senate as soon as Thursday.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said he would speak to Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, about voting on the bill (SB 1030) during its first day of consideration, expected Thursday.

“I think we’ve heard enough about it, and I think we’re in a position to vote on it,” said Thrasher, who chairs the Rules Committee.

The legislation on Internet cafes has moved quickly since Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned in March because of her past consulting work for an Internet café group at the center of a multi-state racketeering investigation.

Opponents argue there could be unintended consequences in rapidly moving the ban forward including putting people out of work. In addition, critics say businesses such as Chuck E. Cheese and Dave Buster’s could get entangled in the legislation if the amusements they use are redefined by a local government or court as “games of chance.”

Supporters reject that argument saying the bill clarifies the existing law for law enforcement, as the electronic games used by the strip center businesses which have always been illegal under Florida law.

While legislators have been critical of the arcades for several years, the bill has rapidly made its way through both sides of the Legislature in response to a statewide investigation into alleged illegal gaming by a charity, Allied Veterans of the World. The probe has already led to 57 arrests. The investigation also resulted in Carroll, who had consulted for Allied while in the Legislature, to resign on March 12.

Gov. Rick Scott has said he wants to review the legislation before deciding if he would sign it into law.

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”


Article source: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/04/02/internet-cafe-ban-approved-by-final-committee/

Internet addiction is a controversial subject. Some experts say it's a real thing, others say it's not. Regardless of the science behind it, one Chinese man took it very seriously. So much so, that he called the cops on himself.

Last Thursday, 22 year-old Mao (a pseudonym) called the police on himself after a two-day Internet cafe binge. Mao called the police to keep him away from the Internet.

According to an article by the Zhejiang Evening Post Online, Mao took his "addiction" very seriously. Supposedly he lost his laptop computer but didn't bother to replace it. He sold his smartphone and replaced it with an old school Nokia. Mao even found a job with long hours so he would be too tired to go online.

Despite all of his efforts Mao couldn't keep himself away from the interwebs. On the afternoon of the 26, Mao found himself walking into an Internet cafe in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. He ended up spending 2 whole days there. After succumbing to temptation, Mao couldn't take it any more. On the morning of the 28, Mao walked out of an Internet cafe and dialed 110 (China's 911).

"Lock me up for a few months, I can't control myself."

The police dispatcher told him they couldn't send police out help him with that. Instead the dispatcher told him to contact the local security bureau for help.

When Mao reached the local security bureau, he sat down and spoke with the desk officer, a psychiatrist and a reporter. He began to talk about his uncontrollable habit.

According to the article, Mao said that he became addicted to the Internet in 2009 after playing the Chinese racing game QQ Racing (see top photo). After playing various games, Mao started to hit chatrooms. First chatting with guys, then chatting with girls. He said he felt a "high" with all the social interaction.

Mao says that he has probably spent over $4,800 visiting net cafes over the last four years. He says he is desperate for help -- so desperate that he thinks jail is the only way to help. The reporter at the scene posits that Mao's desire to go online might have something to do with a missing sense of self-worth in the real world. Mao said during his interview that he hasn't spoken to his family members in a while. Whenever his mother calls, he doesn't pick up.

Mao's situation is pretty bad. Hopefully this time around he'll get the help he needs. The security bureau isn't locking him up for a few months but he has been given time with a mental health expert, though the expert's advice to Mao was to find a fulfilling job.

[小伙无法自控沉迷网络 泡网吧两天后报警求被捕] [Zhejiang Evening News via Tencent]

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.

Article source: http://kotaku.com/man-claims-internet-addiction-calls-cops-on-himself-af-464825592

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Article source: http://www.digitalspy.com/odd/news/a469430/man-spends-six-years-in-internet-cafe.html

Li Meng, a Chinese gamer, loves playing video games so much he practically lives in an internet café. Reported during the week of March 25 from Xinhua News, the gamer has spent the last 6 years patronizing a local PC room in Changchun of North East China. His near constant gaming has registered as addiction to many.

Few details are available about chronic gamer Li Meng from the government regulated Chinese news source. Yet it was said that he has an income of approximately 2,000 Yuan or $322 a month. 500 of that goes to the internet gaming café he’s made his home. That’s around $80 a month.

The gamer would only speak with one reporter who wrote, “ I consulted the café owner, who simply explained that having been there for so long, they barely noticed his presence, and found him to be straightforward and of little annoyance.

Internet gaming café’s or PC rooms are popular in Asian countries where residential space is limited and a significant number of the population may not own computers and/or internet. Charging by the hour and offering special membership cards these establishments aren't anything like a coffee shop with Wi-Fi.

PC’s form church like pews and offer access to popular online games like “WoW”, “FIFA”, and “StarCraft”. Some users pop in just to print off a document or check their email. Most spend free time with friends playing multiplayer games. Others like Li Meng play into the wee hours of the night and end up sleeping on their keyboards.

Described as a 'bespectacled' young man with unkempt hair Li Meng does leave the computer screen sometimes. Venturing out to procure food and bathe most of his time is spent at the café where his constant presence has made him blend in with the furniture. It was not said whether he holds residence anywhere or how his income is made.

While cost of living in China is certainly lower than in North America Li Meng’s financial situation is far from ideal. This fact lead expat publication That’s Magazine to speculate his income to be greater than the reported number. Others see the classic signs of addiction with a young man shutting himself away in a financially precarious situation to sustain his habit.

Internet addiction is a growing problem in the first world and China specifically. It seems obvious to classify this as another horror story of a gaming addicted youth throwing his life away for his game. But while his situation isn't ideal Li Meng isn't starving himself or his children for the sake of his supposed addiction.

Perhaps socially awkward, he wasn't described as having any obvious emotional issues or causing himself any harm. If he spends soo much time at the internet café, where is he making his menial income?

Although many video game companies disapprove of and have tried to put a stop to gold-farming businesses they do still exist. Could it be possible that Li Meng has made gaming his job? The illegality of gold-farming practices could account for his unwillingness to speak with news sources and the tiny sliver of information divulged about his life. Clocking that many hours in front of a computer means his game of choice has to be an MMO right?

Gold-farming is most prevalent in China and in MMORPG games. The practice consists of individuals accruing as much in-game assets as possible to sell to other players for a real-life profit. Less rampant than it was in the 90’s and early 2000’s gold-farming is still a dream job for gamer’s that would rather play a video game than go to work each day.

Many popular games have banned gold-farming from their servers internationally but the bottom legal line is fuzzy. In China it is illegal to pay for real world goods with virtual currency but not the other way around. In 2005 it was believed that over 100,000 Chinese gamers were full-time gold farmers according to the New York Times. In 2008 the Chinese State valued their trade in virtual currency to be around 300 million dollars.

Maybe Mi Leng is addicted to gaming, leading to his eventual financial ruin and gradual estrangement from society. Or perhaps he’s just trying to etch out a living for himself doing what he loves. Clearly if he is gold-farming his income is being misrepresented or he’s not very good at it. If he maintains relationships (probably online), provides for himself, and stays healthy ,than it’s hard to call the gamer an addict. Whatever he’s been doing it’s worked for the last 6 years.

Article source: http://www.examiner.com/article/6-years-at-internet-cafe-it-has-to-be-an-mmo

In the wake of last week's Internet cafe busts in Hesperia, similar businesses in neighboring cities are temporarily closing their doors.

The Hesperia raids have apparently put Internet cafe operators in Apple Valley and Victorville on edge. Though the business owners claim they offer legal sweepstakes gaming, state law enforcement officials say the cafes are illegal casinos that draw other types of crime to the locations.

“What (the cafe operators) are trying to say is that they offer a legal sweepstakes,” said Special Agent in Charge James Parker of the California Department of Justice Gambling Control Board. “But it’s our opinion that it is an illegal gaming device.”

In Apple Valley, Royal Internet on Bear Valley Road near Navajo Road and Happy Land Internet Cafe on Highway 18 in the former Ralph’s shopping center have both been closed for a few days, according to workers at nearby businesses. 

The owner of Royal Internet, John Hawara, was at the location Saturday afternoon but said the cafe would be closed until Monday. He said he planned to talk to town officials Monday to inform them that he would no longer be offering sweepstakes gaming and would only offer Internet use.

Hawara said customers pay $5 an hour for Internet usage and could choose to play games for a chance to win cash. He claimed the games comply with the rules of a sweepstakes, using the Monopoly game at McDonald’s as an example. 

But after the March 19 busts, in which dozens of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies and other officials confiscated more than 200 computers and an undisclosed amount of cash from four Hesperia Internet cafes, Hawara closed up shop for most of the week.

Other local Internet cafes appear to have followed suit. Also locked up on Saturday afternoon was Happy Land in Apple Valley, which has the same name as one of the raided Hesperia cafes but is listed with a different owner in county records. On Seventh Street in Victorville, an Internet cafe called The Zone was closed Saturday afternoon despite a sign stating the shop would be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Cyber Call 888 on Palmdale Road in Victorville had a handwritten sign on its front door which read “Open for copy, fax, refund. No sweepstakes.” However, people inside were playing games that looked similar to card games and slot machines at computer terminals on Saturday.

The man behind the counter, who identified himself as George Padar, said he was allowing customers who still had points on their cards to get refunds or use the remainder of their balances for gaming.

Cyber Call 888 uses software created by Pong Marketing Inc. to market and sell Tel-Connect phone cards. Julius Kiss of Pong Marketing explained that customers buy the phone cards, which can be used on cellular or landline phones, and are awarded sweepstakes points that give them a chance to win cash. Customers can immediately find out if they have won or can choose to play casino-style games instead, Kiss said. 

“We’re a legitimate retail business with a really fun retail game, which is the sweepstakes promotion,” Kiss said.

Padar said he was serving as a consultant for the owners of Cyber Call 888, listed as GE Call LLC. Though he was adamant the games are legal under California sweepstakes law, he said he advised the owners of both The Zone and Cyber Call 888 to close for now. Padar said Cyber Call 888 would allow customers to play their remaining balances for now but will soon shift to a service that offers only copies, faxes and basic Internet service.

The long-term fate of these businesses may ultimately be decided in court.

“We expect (the Hesperia) case to come our way, but I’m not sure when it will be submitted to us,” said Christopher Lee of the District Attorney’s office. “My understanding is that it is still under investigation. As a general rule we never discuss the likelihood of charges or outcomes, especially when we have yet to even see the case. Once the investigation is complete and submitted to our office it will be reviewed and evaluated for filing of charges.”

Lee said he was not aware of any similar cases in the county and that these businesses seem to be “a relatively new phenomena.” 

Most of the Victor Valley Internet cafes appear to have been operating for less than a year. A special agent for the Gambling Control Board said the cafes have popped up all over the state and the nation. 

“They’ve been blossoming within the last two to three years,” said the agent, who asked that his name not be used because he is involved in numerous undercover investigations. “They come to the attention of the local municipalities because of the problems that these businesses bring, such as drug use and prostitution. There are a lot of crimes around these businesses.”

Hesperia City Code Enforcement Supervisor Tony Genovesi said the cafes “came in under the guise of ‘We’re an Internet cafe and we do faxes and we do copies, Google and Yahoo and that kind of stuff.’ ”

But Genovesi said Hesperia Station deputies were soon hearing reports of illegal gambling and getting calls for service in the areas near the cafes, including reports of drug use, public intoxication and panhandling. The city contacted the Gambling Control Board, which assisted in an undercover investigation that led to the busts, Genovesi said.

Genovesi said Hesperia is planning to place a moratorium on the cafes while a permanent city code is drawn up to regulate or ban the businesses. 

Victorville, meanwhile, has already established a section of its development code that allows Internet cafes to operate under strict regulations. The code states that “any form of gambling is prohibited” but also seems to acknowledge that the businesses could attract unsavory characters, preventing the cafes from operating too close to schools, residential zones or other Internet cafes.

Victorville Station Capt. Sam Lucia has been in his new position for less than two months but said he was aware of the Hesperia investigation and that his station is “paying attention to these so-called Internet cafes.”

Apple Valley does not currently have a code in place, but town officials say they are keeping a close eye on the cafes.

“Our priority is the safety of our citizens and the surrounding businesses,” Apple Valley Public Affairs Officer Kathie Martin said. “We will be very interested to see how these situations develop in surrounding cities to make sure we don’t have any problems in Apple Valley.”

Clarification: A sentence in this story has been changed slightly because it may have been misleading to some readers. John Hawara, owner of Royal Internet Cafe in Apple Valley, did not use the term Vegas-style when describing the sweepstakes games offered by his establishment.

Kris Reilly can be reached at kreilly@vvdailypress.com or at 760-955-5358.

Article source: http://www.vvdailypress.com/news/last-39588-nervous-busts.html

 

Parma City Council on Monday extended the city’s moratorium on new Internet cafes by another 180 days.

Council took that action to give Ohio legislators more time to create statewide Internet-cafe regulations.

Parma’s moratorium was originally established in December 2010. At that time, council was considering writing its own regulations for Internet cafes.

However, council scrapped that plan after the Ohio General Assembly started discussing statewide Internet-cafe legislation.

Internet cafes contain sweepstakes games that some believe are illegal forms of gambling.

Cafe proponents say the machines are no different than sweepstakes games found in fast-food restaurants.

More Parma stories

Return to Parma home page

Article source: http://www.cleveland.com/parma/index.ssf/2013/03/parma_extends_moratorium_on_ne.html

The Florida House is scheduled to approve a ban on gambling establishments commonly known as Internet cafes.

The House is expected to vote on the measure (HB 155) on Friday. The House approved a similar bill a year ago but it was not considered by the Florida Senate.

This year is different in the wake of arrests and the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, predicts the bill will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott before the session ends in early May.

Carroll has not been accused of any wrongdoing but she did work for a company involved in the business while she was a legislator.

The Allied Veterans of the World charity is accused of running a $290 million illegal gambling ring.

Article source: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/22/3299961/fla-house-moving-ahead-with-internet.html


Northfield Park's new Hard Rock entertainment complex and racino is expected to be in action this fall. In the meantime, the Village of Northfield enjoys healthy taxes dollars from Internet cafes, which will be hurt by the track's video lottery machines.  

Northfield Village's three Internet cafes have been generating bags of cash for the small town, which is best known as home to Northfield Park harness track.

For more than two years, the village's largest cafe, Dusk-'Til-Dawn, has literally been delivering bags of it.

In a highly unusual ritual compared to other business practices, an employee from the cafe brings a bag of money to the village hall each month to settle the tax bill. There's so much money that a counting machine is needed to verify the stacks.

Under the village's rules, Internet cafes are required to pay a tax equal to five percent of their gross earnings.

When I first heard that a cafe was paying its tax bill in cash, I didn't believe it. The idea just seemed to play too easily into the hands of those who oppose Internet cafes. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and law enforcement officials see Internet cafes as not only illegal gambling operations but as fronts for crime, such as money laundering.

My opposition centers on the fact that Internet cafe sweepstakes games feel too much like slot machine games, which makes them an end run around voters, who only approved slots play at casinos. (This is the result of casino operators and their lobbyists, who wrote the gambling amendment to the Ohio constitution that gives them a monopoly.)

I've seen Internet cafes first-hand and found them more akin to a noisy library than a backroom poker operation filled with smoke and rowdy players with stacks of cash. But DeWine and others insist the unseen aspects of the operation are the problem, which brings me back to the cash.

Paying taxes in cash each month hurts the image of the Internet cafes screaming to be treated as legitimate businesses. Most legitimate businesses don't pay bills with bundles of cash.

Bradric Bryan, Northfield Village's law director, said the village isn't thrilled to be handling the cash – which gets delivered to the bank via police escort -- but the town has to accept payment in that form. He said that when the cafes opened, the state and county offered no guidance on how to treat them and the village was in no position to sort it out.

"We didn't have the resources to be the guinea pig," he said.

Exactly how much Dusk-'Til-Dawn brings in each month is not a public record. But Finance Director Monica A. James says the three Internet cafes combined paid more than $300,000 last year. That's a critical chunk of money considering the village's total receipts for the year was around $2.7 million and it had little left over.)

James said all the cafes provide the paperwork to support their tax payments. She refused to identify the Dusk-'Til-Dawn by name, claiming doing so could lead to a robbery.

The cash stacks are so thick that sometimes the cafe gets a small refund – when the village or the bank discovers a $100 bill stuck to a smaller bill.

On Monday I reached Chad Price, who operates Dusk-'Til-Dawn.

"Most of my vendors get paid cash," he told me.

Price says paying in cash just simplifies his operations.

Doing so is also a tactical move against the likes of the state attorney general and county prosecutors.

Price says he wants to keep as much money out of the bank to avoid having it seized by the state during a legal battle. Authorities have frozen the assets of some cafe operations caught up in legal and criminal investigations.

Price would rather use his checking account, but he said the swirling debate about the legality of cafes has made doing business more difficult.

Price's comments were a hanging curve for Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, who's been lobbying lawmakers to shut down Internet cafes.

"It fits in with my testimony that these cafes are unregulated, all-cash businesses that lend themselves to money laundering," he said, noting he's never heard of a Internet business paying taxes in cash. "This is the poster child for why we need strong regulation."

Such regulation remains in the hands of the Ohio Senate, which is reviewing the anti-Internet cafe legislation recently passed by the Ohio House.

The village will soon become home to Northfield Track's "racino" offering casino-style gambling on video lottery terminals. The racinos are also being challenged by anti-gambling forces and likely will cut into the profits of Internet cafes.

Until all this is sorted out, the best thing the village can do is keep counting its bags of cash.


Plain Dealer News Researcher Jo Ellen Corrigan contributed to this report.

Follow me on Twitter: @marknaymik

You can reach me at 216-999-4849, or at mnaymik@plaind.com

Michelle Quesada <!-- -->

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --The Florida Senate Gaming Committee is set to review a proposal that would ban Internet cafes across the state. Owners of these establishments on the First Coast are worried lawmakers are just reacting to arrests in a statewide racketeering scandal.

"We don't think that's fair and we don't think that's justice and give us a chance, let us fight it. Let's find out what we can do to fix the problem instead of just like shut them down," said Elia Hawara, owner of Royal Times Sweepstakes in Regency.

A proposal to ban all Florida Internet cafes swept through the Florida House Select Gaming Committee with a 15-to-1 vote Friday, now the Senate Gaming Committee is set to review Senate Bill 1030 which also proposes to prohibit the establishments. These bills are causing worries among Internet café owners and employees. 

"I have not really for the last two days. I have not had any sleep, not night not day, just thinking what's going on why is this happening," said Hawara.

For over five years, Elia Hawara says he's operated a legit Internet café in Jacksonville. 

"We show everything, we don't have anything to hide, good relations with the customers, as you can tell clean operation," said Hawara.  

Under Florida Statute 849.094, electronic game promotions in connection to sale of products or services are allowed and are not considered gambling. But advocates for the bill say the sweepstakes machines resemble slot machines and computer online gambling.

Internet café owners pay annual fees, fees per machines along with permits from the county. They have to abide by county regulations and zoning and all sweepstakes machines have to be certified by the state.

After the Allied Veterans of the World Internet cafes alleged illegal gambling and racketeering charges, these Internet cafes are at risk of being shut down altogether.

"What Allied did has nothing to do with a legit Internet café that's trying to make business and it also bring job opportunities for people that are looking for work," said Ramon Acevedo, an employee of Winners Sweepstakes.

Acevedo just started working at Winners Sweepstakes last year and says he already had another job, but got this part time job to help with bills. There are over 50 listed Internet cafes on the First Coast and on average they each may have up to ten employees. That would mean hundreds without jobs just in Northeast Florida.

The Florida Senate Gaming Committee will review the bill at 10 a.m. Monday.

First Coast News

Article source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/topstories/article/304228/483/Internet-cafes-worried-about-bill-to-ban-gaming-establishments

Michelle Quesada <!-- -->

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --The Florida Senate Gaming Committee is set to review a proposal that would ban Internet cafes across the state. Owners of these establishments on the First Coast are worried lawmakers are just reacting to arrests in a statewide racketeering scandal.

"We don't think that's fair and we don't think that's justice and give us a chance, let us fight it. Let's find out what we can do to fix the problem instead of just like shut them down," said Elia Hawara, owner of Royal Times Sweepstakes in Regency.

A proposal to ban all Florida Internet cafes swept through the Florida House Select Gaming Committee with a 15-to-1 vote Friday, now the Senate Gaming Committee is set to review Senate Bill 1030 which also proposes to prohibit the establishments. These bills are causing worries among Internet café owners and employees. 

"I have not really for the last two days. I have not had any sleep, not night not day, just thinking what's going on why is this happening," said Hawara.

For over five years, Elia Hawara says he's operated a legit Internet café in Jacksonville. 

"We show everything, we don't have anything to hide, good relations with the customers, as you can tell clean operation," said Hawara.  

Under Florida Statute 849.094, electronic game promotions in connection to sale of products or services are allowed and are not considered gambling. But advocates for the bill say the sweepstakes machines resemble slot machines and computer online gambling.

Internet café owners pay annual fees, fees per machines along with permits from the county. They have to abide by county regulations and zoning and all sweepstakes machines have to be certified by the state.

After the Allied Veterans of the World Internet cafes alleged illegal gambling and racketeering charges, these Internet cafes are at risk of being shut down altogether.

"What Allied did has nothing to do with a legit Internet café that's trying to make business and it also bring job opportunities for people that are looking for work," said Ramon Acevedo, an employee of Winners Sweepstakes.

Acevedo just started working at Winners Sweepstakes last year and says he already had another job, but got this part time job to help with bills. There are over 50 listed Internet cafes on the First Coast and on average they each may have up to ten employees. That would mean hundreds without jobs just in Northeast Florida.

The Florida Senate Gaming Committee will review the bill at 10 a.m. Monday.

First Coast News

Article source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/topstories/article/304228/483/Internet-cafes-worried-about-bill-to-ban-gaming-establishments