Are internet sweepstakes cafes legal in California?
Internet sweepstakes cafes and are popping up all over the nation. Recently, one showed up in southwest Bakersfield and it is raising eyebrows.
The business in question is located in southwest Bakersfield off of Planz and Stein Road. On the outside, the sign says "Fun Zone Internet Sweepstakes Cafe," but on the inside there are signs all over the business that say Tel-Connect.
"People were playing video games. Five dollars gives you 100 (minutes) and $20 gives you 500 (minutes)," viewer Marilyn said. She went into the business with her sister, but soon left because she felt something was wrong.
When the customer purchases these minutes they are put onto a calling card. Customers are then able to use those cards to either use the internet or to play one of several games on the computer. The games pay out cash winnings of one dollar to $1,000. Gaming cafes like tel-connect are popping up across the nation.
"These companies are always trying to find ways around the law to make things legal. They circumvent the laws by making them sweepstakes or lotteries," an undercover officer with the Bakersfield Police Department said.
In Florida, the attorney general issued an opinion saying that the decision of the legality of these businesses had to be made by local law enforcement. In other states, like Ohio, the Sixth District Court of Appeals ruled that the sweepstakes were legal. But in California, the question of legality still remains up in the air. Cities like Oakland have already contacted the district attorney and the state attorney general to see what rules apply to these businesses.
The California Bureau of Gaming Control has yet to rule on the legality of these gaming cafes.
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