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Issue Date: Vol. 53, No. 9, September 2013, Posted On: 8/16/2013

Sweepstakes Updates: Hearing In NM; Raid In NC; Open In Hayward, CA; New Approach In FL

Nick Montano
TAGS: electronic sweepstakes, Internet cafe, gambling parlors, video slot machine, illegal gambling, prize machine, Michael T. Vento, Coconuts Internet Café

New Mexico: Supreme Court Will Decide Whether Businessman Ran Sweepstakes Or Gambling Games
The New Mexico Supreme Court heard a case this week involving Las Cruces businessman Michael T. Vento, who is accused of running a gambling enterprise out of his Internet café. A state Court of Appeals last year overturned Vento's conviction of commercial gambling, a fourth-degree felony. He lost his business in July 2008 after the state Gaming Control Board raided it and seized his 21 computer terminals. Gov. Susana Martinez, a district attorney when Vento was operating his Las Cruces café, prosecuted him for commercial gambling. Vento, 64, said he only provided his customers a chance to win sweepstakes prizes.


Cumberland County, NC: Sweepstakes Café Raid Nets Machines And Money
The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office raided an underground business in the town of Eastover, seizing four gambling machines and $1,800. The types of machines seized on Aug. 15 were described as "old-style Las Vegas videogames." Internet sweepstakes cafés were prohibited last year in North Carolina, where the NC Supreme Court ruling upheld the state's decision to close them. Earlier this year, Cumberland County deputies, and authorities elsewhere in the state, raided cafés that remained open in their jurisdictions. As a result, some sweepstakes businesses have opened inside homes and other discreet locations. The Eastover site raided this week was inside a house next to a church.


Hayward, CA: Internet Cafés Can Stay Open -- For Time Being
A federal court ruled that Hayward, CA's sweepstakes café moratorium could not be enforced because it was overly broad. In February, the City Council passed an ordinance shutting down the cafés, which operate computer terminals featuring sweepstakes games considered to be illegal gambling. Owners of two Hayward cafés filed suit against the city in federal court. Hayward officials are drafting a new ordinance that will be presented to the City Council this fall. In the interim, the city's three Internet cafés can remain open.


Merritt Island, FL: Café Reopens -- Without Prizes
The Coconuts Internet Café, among the thousand or so electronic sweepstakes parlors in Florida forced close in April, is giving it a go without prizes. For $10, patrons can only play games, use the Internet and socialize. But will it catch on with gamers? One regular says, "no."


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