In 2013 you read a lot about special agents with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Gambling Control teaming up with local law enforcement officers to combat the growing and disturbing trend of internet cafes popping up in neighborhoods and business communities. Now Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) has introduced Assembly Bill 1439 to fight the rising number of illegal sweepstakes gambling cafes that seems to be multiplying in cities and counties throughout the state.
AB 1439 would outlaw casino-style gambling cafes and give law enforcement the much needed tools to shut them down.
"As president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) and on behalf of our 7,000 public safety professionals, I have written a letter in support of AB 1439," said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "The legislation will clear up the current confusion in the law by closing loopholes and allow our agents and officers to stop the operation of these sites which often attract undesirable and criminal behavior. AB 1439 will lend itself to making neighborhoods and business communities safer."
Some residents and business owners have complained that casino-style gambling cafes are associated with an increase in prostitution, drug trafficking, and violence.
In July 2013, special agents with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Gambling Control, working with Sacramento police, raided two Internet gambling sites in North Sacramento. The two sites appeared to be Internet cafes but special agents and police discovered computerized slot machines used for illegal gambling. They arrested three people at one site on drug-related charges and one person at the second site for a felony warrant. They seized a total of 35 computers and several thousand dollars in cash.
In May 2013, after a four-month, group effort by the Tracy Police Department, the California Department of Justice, the Department of Industrial Relations, the Department of Homeland Security and the Employment Development Department, law enforcement officers raided a Tracy internet cafe. Investigators said Computer Crazy Internet Cafe was an online gambling operation and a nuisance to the neighborhood. Investigators had a warrant to search Computer Crazy Internet Cafe in Tracy and the business owner's home in Antioch. They seized 100 computers, 50 from each location. They also seized $65,000 and documents detailing the gambling operation. The investigation began when neighboring business owners told police about drinking, drugs and fights surrounding the internet cafe. Police said cafe customers would put money on cards to play video gambling games.
Two other gambling facilities in Woodland were raided by police and Department of Justice agents in May 2013. Officers and agents seized computers and money at an operation on Main Street and one on East Street. They arrested one patron for possession of a controlled substance.
In April 2013, DOJ special agents, along with Stockton police, raided the Click It cafe on Hammer Lane in Stockton and seized 37 computers and $2,000. It was the second internet cafe bust in Stockton in two months. In February, special agents closed down D's Cyber Lounge on Fremont Street. In an investigation that began in June 2012, special agents went undercover to expose what was really going on at D's. From the outside it appeared to be an internet cafe, but inside special agents and police say they found something totally different. Authorities report seizing guns, drugs, computers, $16,000, cash-counting machines and an ATM. It is believed the illegal gambling operation brought in up to $6,000 a day. Special agents report witnessing online gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking.
Typically, business owners and neighbors, who work and live near these operations, express relief and gratitude as these sites are shut down.
"There's no question, these operations tend to attract the wrong crowd," said Barcelona. "Special agents have the dangerous task of going into these operations, undercover, and exposing the illegal activity and making the necessary arrests . It's what they do to keep all of us safe and our neighborhoods crime-free. AB 1439 will greatly assist them.
AB 1439 will clearly define the illegality of gambling at internet cafes. The bill will also make these activities an unfair business practice that will permit cities, counties, and the DOJ to bring civil lawsuits against the individuals at the center of these activities.