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[March 07, 2014]
Court: Internet cafe gaming activity can be blocked [The Bakersfield Californian :: ]
(Bakersfield Californian, The (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 07--This could be game over for Internet cafes in Bakersfield.
A state appellate court ruled Friday that sweepstakes cafes -- also known as Internet cafes -- offer "unlawful slot machine" gambling.
The court's ruling affirms "sweepstakes cafes may be ordered to cease all gaming activity," the Kern County District Attorney's office quickly said via press release.
County officials will discuss the verdict Friday afternoon at a press conference.
Los Angeles attorney John H. Weston, who represented Kirnpal Grewal of A to Z Cafe and Phillip Walker of OZ Internet Cafe and Hub, said he was disappointed by the opinion and felt the court erred by differing with an earlier Sacramento Court of Appeals ruling.
While he and his clients continue to review Friday's opinion, Weston said there is a good chance they may appeal it to the California Supreme Court More than a dozen Internet cafes are currently operating in metropolitan Bakersfield -- in defiance of city and county officials, who believe they are gambling houses that attract a criminal element.
But when the District Attorney's office shut down nine of the cafes, their owners sued in August 2012, arguing their sweepstakes were legal entertainment, tying the matter up in the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno.
The District Attorney's office has declined to prosecute additional cafe owners or shut them down pending the arrival of Friday's court decision.
City officials have been reduced to sending letters to cafe owners informing them that "Las Vegas-style electronic slot machines" are prohibited under penal code and to the cafes' landlords, informing them that Internet cafes "may be illegal" under California law, and are believed to "attract a criminal element." Cafe owners and advocates have continued to say their establishments offer nothing more than harmless entertainment, Internet access and legal sweepstakes similar to the Monopoly game offered by McDonald's restaurants.
Meanwhile their numbers multiplied, reaching 15 in January and, according to Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson, attracting violence, prostitution and drug-related crimes.
On Oct. 22, police arrested a felon allegedly in possession of a loaded, sawed-off shotgun at the south Bakersfield shopping center that houses iSweeps and iNet Internet cafes.
On Wednesday, police responded to reports of a fight at Fun Zone Internet Cafe in east Bakersfield and arrested four people on suspicion of burglary and drug charges.
___ (c)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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