New bill could close internet sweepstakes cafes

By Evrod Cassimy – bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The open sign at the Church Hill Internet Cafe is lit up Thursday night but in just a few months a new law could force it to close for good. The General Assembly has passed a measure to ban sweepstakes video games, meaning those businesses here in Virginia will soon be illegal.

"I think it's wrong for the simple fact you know it gives some people something to do," said sweepstakes player, Louis Woodley.

We caught up with him and his friend Mario as they were leaving the internet cafe. For them and many others, this sweepstakes business was a way to make some extra cash.

"Since I've been playing (I've made) about a hundred dollars," said Mario Spruill.

"In here I've won like 480 one time lump sum," added Vonnita Johnson.

If Governor McDonnell signs this bill into law, Church Hill Internet Cafe would be forced to close by July 1st. The owner tells NBC12 that would put him and the eight other people that work here out of a job. And for the cafe customers, making money this way is a safer alternative than what they used to do before.

"I'd be shooting dice with my friends," said Spruill. "But I do this because I think it's a more safer way. If I win the computer money I don't have to worry about the computer trying to rob me to get their money back."

And while the bill waits for Governor McDonnell's signature, these sweepstakes players believe this bill is about more than just clarifying the state's gambling laws.

"I think why because I don't think they're getting any money out of it," said Spruill.

Governor McDonnell is expected to sign this bill which means that the sweepstakes cafes here in the Commonwealth must close by July 1.

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