Lawmakers target illegal gambling at internet cafes

By Evrod Cassimy – bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – State lawmakers are going after internet gambling, specifically those so-called internet cafes offering sweepstakes.

They're popping up across the commonwealth but state officials say they're actually illegal. Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli is in support of two companion bills that clarify Virginia's gambling law. The bills explain that a store offering internet gambling under the guise of a legal sweepstakes is not allowed here in Virginia.

The Church Hill Internet Cafe was packed tonight by many people taking part in a sweepstakes. But its places like this, that have lawmakers looking to clarify the state's gambling laws.

"It would be illegal if they are running this internet cafe type operation and they take your money and you get a chance to play a game to win more money," said Cuccinelli.

The owner of the cafe explains how this sweepstakes works.

"You purchase internet time and with the purchase of internet time you get free entries into the sweepstakes," said Church Hill Internet Cafe co-owner, Bryon Coleman.

While the cafe allows people to use the internet for a number of things, most of the people we saw in the front room were playing games for money.

When asked if he would consider this a legal way to gamble in the state of Virginia Coleman said, "No, not if you read your laws because we don't charge for an opportunity to win money. That would be gambling. That would be a lottery."

His internet café has been open for 11 days now and he plans on opening another location in the next few weeks. Even though he doesn't consider this gambling they've paid out $500 to one of their highest winners. Cuccinelli supports the bills clarification of the law as more internet cafes like this one start to open across the state.

"Before people start investing in something that was never intended to be legal in the first place and is our view isn't legal now, let's cut this off and clarify it," said Cuccinelli.

We'll keep you updated as the two bills make their way through the legislature. The co-owner of the Church Hill Internet Cafe tells us if this bill goes through he will be forced to shut down.

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