WORCESTER Around the time a state law went into effect Nov. 1 banning sweepstakes “cyber cafés,” a business opened at 560 Lincoln St. ' Net Play Cyber Café and Sweepstakes had been there until it closed some time ago. The state considered similar businesses illegal and tried to close them.
Net Play opened in the same place in the past week with customers sitting at what looked to be gaming machines similar to those used by the previous business. But instead of a sign reading “Sweepstakes,” the signs on the 40 machines there now say “Skills Games.”
Asked if it's the same Internet café that had been there earlier, an employee said now it's a “game of skill” rather than a sweepstakes. Winners get gift cards instead of the cash they got before, she said.
Under the outlawed business model, customers bought Internet time — which Attorney General Martha Coakley said was a ruse — and then got to play the electronic games with cash prizes. On Monday, the old machines sat darkened and unused near the new “games of skill.”
The employee refused to say how long the business had been open and told a reporter to leave. She would not allow him to play any of the games, saying the business does not want to be in the newspaper.
She referred any further questions to a manager who she said would be there the next day. The next day, Christine, who said she was a manager but did not give her last name, said she had no comment, would not say who at the company would comment, and wanted nothing in the newspaper.
The law that passed Aug. 1 and went into effect this month more carefully defines the “sweepstakes” operations that it bans and increases penalties to a fine of up to $250,000 per machine or up to 15 years in prison or both. Responding to the games that flourished in Worcester and across the state last year in which owners said that prizes were awarded based on chance only and were not influenced by anything a player did at the game machine, the definition now includes “a simulated game terminal as a representation of the prizes associated with the results of the sweepstakes.”
Meanwhile, another sweepstakes business, City Cyber Café, at 120 Stafford St., closed when the new law went into effect. A sign at City Cyber Café directs customers to “come visit us now at 560 Lincoln St.”
Corporation papers on file with the secretary of state have been changed, listing Robert S. Murphy Jr., a lawyer at Bacon Wilson in Springfield, as the resident agent for BMG Operations, whose office is at 560 Lincoln St. Mr. Murphy was a lawyer for Rejean Theberge, the licensee for City Cyber Café on Stafford Street and who also offers sweepstakes games in Springfield and Holyoke. Mr. Murphy has since become a judge in the state's district courts.
Matthew Durand of Wilmington, N.C., listed as BMG's manager, said yesterday that he sold the business at least six months ago, but he refused to say who bought it.
A sign at City Cyber Café on Stafford Street said that state regulations persuaded management “to temporarily cease and desist operations.” It thanked customers for their patronage and support and said their accounts “will stay validated until we solve this problem through legal venues.”
“We hope to resolve all issues through our court systems and re-open as soon as possible.” It promised, “We will be back better than ever.”
William T. Breault, an opponent of sweepstakes cafés, is grateful for the state new law and was unhappy to learn that the Lincoln Street operation had reopened.
“What they were offering was a rip-off,” said Mr. Breault, chairman of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety. “If they're basically doing the same thing under the color of something else, I hope the AG will look at it and do something.”
The attorney general's office did not answer questions about the Net Play Cyber Café. “Our office continues to investigate Internet cafes and other operations that appear to be in violation of Massachusetts law,” the AG's office said in a statement.
“Those who continue to operate in violation of the law could face criminal prosecution or civil penalties and should cease operation. In many instances, local law enforcement is investigating unlawful gaming activities, and we continue to work with local officials to take action where appropriate.”
Even under the law before Nov. 1, the attorney general took sweepstakes operations to court, civilly and criminally. In August a former Fall River city councilor, Leo Pelletier, 66, and Linda Pelletier of Spring Hill, Fla., pleaded guilty to gaming charges. They were given two years' probation, and their company, New England Internet Cafes, was ordered to forfeit $100,000 in connection with Internet cafes they operated in Fall River and Fairhaven.
In July, NEIC and Internet Marketing Group, LLC , doing business as “The Ship” of Lynnfield, agreed to pay $750,000 for allegedly facilitating illegal gambling.
In June 2011, the License Commission voted 3-0 to reject entertainment licenses for City Cyber Café and two other planned sweepstakes cafes. Then-chairman Peter M. Lukes said the commission would not give a license to a business that was illegal, although Mr. Murphy said his clients' businesses were not illegal.
In any case, the License Commission said it has no jurisdiction over such businesses and withholding the entertainment license only prevented playing televisions and radios there. The city previously granted Net Play Cyber Café an entertainment license before it understood the nature of the business there.
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Detectives with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office are on the lookout for a trio of armed gunmen who robbed an Internet gaming business in Palmetto Saturday night.
The incident occurred just before 10 p.m. at U Lucky Dog at 5300 US Highway 41. The suspects made off with a large sum of cash and a handful of personal items including cell phones.
According to a MCSO report three black males burst into the business and ordered all six occupants to the floor. The suspects were all armed, were all wearing gloves and had their faces covered.
The men had all the victims empty their pockets before fleeing the building on foot. They jumped into an unknown vehicle and sped away.
Investigators say the crime last approximately one minute.
All three suspects are between the ages of 20 and 30 according to the victims. They were all between 5'8'' and 5'11'' tall and weigh between 190 and 220 pounds.
Several crime scene and violent crime units were dispatched to the scene to gather evidence.
If you have any information about this crime, please contact the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011 or you can remain anonymous by calling the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-866-634-8477.
The man, Cao Haibo, 27, of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, was accused of “subversion of state power” for trying to set up the “China Republican Party” — an entity that existed on paper, and only for one day.
His wife, Zhang Nian, 23, said he was sentenced on Wednesday but the court only notified her on Thursday. “It is a very severe punishment and long sentence,” she said, adding that the trial was held in secret.
The sentencing comes a week before a pivotal series of meetings in Beijing during which the party will ratify a new generation of leaders.
Mr. Cao’s lawyer, Ma Xiaopeng, told Reuters his client did not fully understand the risks he was taking when he sent antigovernment messages to his friends last year. “Cao Haibo does not understand politics in China,” Mr. Ma said. “We think he’s an immature child; he really did not know that the party would take it this seriously.”
Ms. Zhang said she and Mr. Cao were married three months before he was arrested last October. They have a 9-month-old child.
Renee Xia, international director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, criticized the prosecution of Mr. Cao, noting that he was detained for eight months without trial and that even his family was barred from the proceedings. “Cao’s only ‘crime’ was to chat in an online group, where members discussed such ideas as democratic reform and constitutional rights,” she said. “This case is a travesty of justice. It demonstrates, once again, that China shows only disdain for rule of law.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 1, 2012
An earlier version of this article misstated the given name of Cao Haibo’s wife. She is Zhang Nian, no Zhang Yan.
An earlier version of this article misstated the given name of Cao Haibo’s wife. She is Zhang Nian, no Zhang Yan.
Anglo Gold Ashanti (Obuasi) yesterday donated an Internet cafÃ© worth US 35,000 dollars to the Obuasi Community as part of the Company's commitment to its social responsibilities.
The facility, sited near the yet-to-be commissioned library, is expected to serve as an e-learning centre for school children and the people of Obuasi.
The Managing Director of the Company, Mr. Kwesi Enyan announced at the inauguration of the facility that Anglo Gold Ashanti had planned to open additional Cyber cafes and e-leaning centres in the municipality and the Iduapriem area.
"Anglo Gold Ashanti research shows that for a population of about 240, 000, Obuasi municipality had about 24 internet cafes in 2009 and today, there are only a handful of functional Cyber cafes "he said.
He said the centre was designed to help students in the municipality in their studies and also help local entrepreneurs to expand their businesses by identifying customers and suppliers in other parts of the country and internationally.
Mr. Enyan indicated that though the company was a mining entity, it was committed to investing in its operational areas to improve the socio-economic lives of the people and the country at large.
"In mining, we see the huge role that technology plays every day. It drives innovation and helps reduce and manage environmental impact. Technology is transforming the way we operate and we are expected to share our enthusiasm for technology with the community."
Mr. John Alexander Ackon, the Obuasi Municipal Chief Executive noted that with the improved results of the basic schools and the Obuasi Senior High Technical School of late, coupled with the inauguration of the internet cafÃ©, it was about time to seize "this platform to launch our desire for the establishment of a tertiary institution in the municipality".
He hoped that AGA would establish these cafes in schools to help easy access by the students to eventually improve their knowledge in the technology.
Mr. J.G Assieduâ€“ Kotwi, the Chairman of the Assembly's sub-committee on education said the facility would help check truancy among students.
BRENTWOOD -- Brentwood is the latest in a string of East County cities to place restrictions on computer gaming and Internet access establishments, following the lead of Antioch, Pittsburg and Oakley.
Antioch, Pittsburg and Oakley have all placed moratoriums on Internet cafes, where patrons purchase online time at computer terminals and often play sweepstakes games for a chance to win cash prizes. The legality of these operations has been fiercely debated and some cities have tried to ban them as illegal gambling operations nationwide, according to Brentwood City Attorney Martin Lysons.
City officials in Brentwood did not see the need for a moratorium at this time because there are no applications to bring an Internet cafe there. Instead, the Brentwood City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night to place certain regulations on these controversial businesses that have been known to bring increased police calls to the nearby areas.
In East County there are only two Internet cafes, both in Antioch.
"It is a pre-emptive strike to avoid consequences in the future," said Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor after the vote.
Brentwood's new ordinance requires a license, background checks on employees, a permit application process managed by the police chief, limited hours of operation, video monitoring, an alarm system, proper lighting and prohibitions regarding minors, illegal gambling and adult-oriented businesses within these commercialestablishments.
Cyber cafe users and owners argue that the sweepstakes games made popular at these sites are considered promotional sweepstakes and legal in California, according to Lysons. Owners also often say that by selling Internet access, they are promoting speech and communication, which are protected by the First Amendment.
Councilman Erick Stonebarger said that Brentwood didn't have a process in place for this type of business, so the ordinance will provide these needed restrictions without the additional action of a moratorium.
"I would have liked to see stronger restrictions in place, but you start to butt up against the gray area of the First Amendment," he said. "We feel comfortable that we have the tools to handle it now."
Reach staff writer Paula King at 925-779-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to the American Legion Post No. 251, Montgomery School District will be able to extend the school's library with an Internet Cafe.
During a school board meeting, the Montgomery Area School Board was presented with a $10,000 check from the local American Legion chapter. Jack Dudek and Glenn Crossley, members of the legion, presented the check.
Superintendent Daphne Ross and several students attended the October meeting of the s American Legion where they outlined Montgomery's plan for a new internet cafe.
"They came in and described the idea behind the internet cafe, and outlined the devices that would be needed to make this program successful," said Jack Dudek. As a result of the presentation, the Legion decided to donate the full $10,000 needed to fund the Internet cafe.
"We're excited that we're in a position where we can donate to such a wonderful cause," Dudek said. Superintendent Ross outlined the function of the cafe.
"We want this to be a place where students can work online in a relaxed, coffee shop atmosphere. We're hoping that the cafe will function like a commons area for the students," Ross said.
She added that the school was hoping to sell Montgomery apparel and souvenirs out of the student-run cafe.
I’ll be honest with you- I’ve never set foot inside one.
Most of the stories we read online depict internet cafes as the haunts of socially inept teens, men with poor personal hygiene, or tales of weirdness like people playing online games for such enormous lengths of time that they keel over at they keyboards, resting their head forever on the escape button of life.
But perhaps we’ve been wrong to write them off as such terrible places? Perhaps internet cafes can be awesome, too?
In Japan, at least, many internet cafes offer room rental, allowing customers the freedom and privacy of having their own personal space, sometimes with a lockable door and a little couch.
A friend of mine once told me that, returning home at midnight, only to discover that she’d lost her door key, she was forced to spend the night at a nearby internet cafe instead. However, while it wasn’t the comfiest night ever, she was warm, had a safe place to sleep and it only cost her about 3,000 yen (US$37), so maybe they’re not so bad afterall?
But how do China’s internet cafes stand up? Are they the portal to the devil’s own realm, or just misunderstood hideaways?
Chinese website TT Mop has put together a great collection of photos, giving us all a behind-the-scenes look at what the country has to offer.
▼”Darling? Darling? I’m finished. We can go home now.”
▼Shame on you, young man! There could be ladies present!
▼”Hey, baby, I got a warcraft for you- right here…”
▼Some guy getting fruity on his own.
▼Some net cafes are heavily policed.
▼Whereas others are a little more relaxed…
▼”What? Never seen a guy hang his undies up on a monitor before?”
▼Head wound shmead wound, I’m playing.
▼”What? No, I’m in a net cafe. What? No, just watching some porn. Yeah, catch you later!”
▼Start ‘em young…
▼…and they stay for life.
▼Awwww, someone’s sweeeepy.
▼OK, aaand drool in three, two, one…
▼I think I tried this while trying to sleep on a plane, once…
Images: TT Mop
1. Mitt the binder
2. India's aircraft carrier hits more troubled waters
3. 'Money-masters' hold lifeline for North Korea
4. Telangana issue sparks more turmoil
5. Rhetoric, US elections and the Middle East
6. Obama plays ball
7. Conflict without end
8. Najib shoots pre-election messengers
9. Beyond left and right
10. October peace surprise in Syria
(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Oct 18, 2012)
- Fayaz Ahmad’s Faim Internet Café in the Sopore township of Indian Kashmir was booming until a year ago, when police entered his premises without warning and seized all his computers.
Fayaz himself was taken into custody after being told that someone had sent a “suspicious” email from his café.
Fayaz told IPS it is “impossible” for a café owner to control the actions of his customers.
“All I could do was note down the names and addresses of my visitors, maintain a record of their identity cards and list the times (of their arrival and departure from the café),” said Fayaz.
He is not the only person to have his life seriously disrupted by the government’s clampdown on Internet users throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Rayees Ahmad, owner of Hughes Internet Café, was also harassed by the police and forced to pack up his business.
Now, not a single Internet café operates in Sopore, a town of 300,000 people.
In the towns of Sringar – the economic capital of Indian Kashmir – Anantnag and Baramulla, many young boys have been picked up from their homes for expressing their personal views on Facebook and Twitter. Popular sites like YouTube have been blocked. Text messaging services have been jammed.
Yet when Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde visited Lal Chowk, a city square in Srinagar that has served as a meeting point for rights activists since the 1980s, he failed to mention the attack on freedom of expression in the Valley.
“With 500 security personnel present in and around Lal Chowk, and mobile phones jammed, the minister claimed that everything was (fine) in Kashmir,” Khurrum Parvez, a renowned human rights activist and convener of the Coalition of Civil Society (CCS), told IPS in reference to the two-day official visit last week.
The Indian minister’s silence did not come as a shock to many civil society activists here, who have long expressed concerns about the government’s consistent efforts to curb freedom of speech and the right to access social media and online communications.
“Every time a high profile (official) visits Kashmir, and every time Kashmiris try to express their political aspirations or protest about the violation of their rights, Web sites like Facebook and YouTube are blocked while the mobile phones are jammed for days on end,” Hameeda Nayeem, a social activist with a long involvement in Kashmir’s human rights movement, told IPS.
Local newspapers in Indian Kashmir have also been drawing attention to these violations, which the government claims is a response to a surge of protests across the Valley.Kashmiris say both India and Pakistan have illegally occupied their territory following that region’s independence from British rule in 1947. For over six decades now, residents of the disputed Valley have been demanding freedom from both India and Pakistan, who control two-thirds and one-third of Kashmiri’s territory respectively.
In August and September of 2010, at least 110 civilians were killed and thousands injured during demonstrations that lasted 50 days and spawned strict curfews.
“The government’s response to (popular opposition) – blocking access to the Internet – is a very unhealthy development,” according to an editorial in Greater Kashmir.
“The move is not only undemocratic in spirit but is also uncalled for under the circumstances. Except for the recent three-day protests (on Sep. 16, 17 and 18) over the anti-Islam movie, the Valley has been experiencing unprecedented peace for almost two years now.”
Internet blockade ‘counterproductive’
Columnist and political commentator, Sheikh Showkat, told IPS that the government is choosing a dangerous path by blocking every outlet of expression.
“In a place where the space for street protests has shrunk in recent years, social Web sites have emerged as the (primary) medium for the peaceful expression of individual and collective opinions,” said Showkat.
“The attempt to curb (such communication) will not only violate the principle of freedom of expression but also be counter-productive in nature.”
According to Showkat, this is not the first time the government has muzzled free speech. “(We) have (been) experiencing an SMS ban since 2010,” he claimed.
Youth have borne the brunt of this particular strand of repression.
Back in 2010, an 18-year-old student from Srinagar, Faizan Samad, became the first person to be arrested for posting pro-freedom slogans on Facebook.
This year alone, police have identified 24 youth for disseminating political messages on Facebook. Four have been arrested on these same charges.
The reputed English daily ‘Kashmir Times’ noted, “It is clear that the establishment has scant regard for free speech and free ideas. Like in George Orwell’s famous novel ‘1984’, free thinking itself is becoming a crime and individuals and groups targeted for ‘thought crimes’ (in Kashmir).”
The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) says that frequent bans on social networking sites and jamming of mobile phones could agitate Kashmiri youth further.
“The young boys and girls use the Internet to stay connected and express themselves. If they can express themselves (online) instead of coming onto the streets, that should be encouraged,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said during a recent session of the Legislative Assembly, which ended earlier this month.
“We may not be using (the Inernet) much but the youth are dependent on it,” said 52-year-old Mufti.
A student named Majid Rashid told IPS, “I am part of many (online) networks that give me fresh insights about politics and current affairs. I am connected to sources of information that I am not able to track otherwise.”
Fayaz’s popular café, which used to draw over a hundred netizens everyday, has now been reduced to a place where tutors get their notes typed.
From a dozen computers, the café now operates just two machines, for Fayaz and his co-worker.
“Following my release after a year’s detention I had to take a bank loan to re-start my café. But now I don’t allow anyone to browse. I simply don’t want to get into trouble again,” he stressed.