Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lawmakers crack down on gambling halls

FRANKFORT -- Legislation that would shutter Internet cafes doubling as gambling halls received final passage today in the state Senate.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 28, included an amendment from the state House expressing legislative intent to remain neutral in a pending legal dispute regarding historical horse racing.

Internet cafes are for-profit businesses that sell Internet access for a chance to play computer-based, casino-style games, or sweepstakes, in which customers can win cash prizes, said SB 28 sponsor Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green. He said the cafes are located in buildings that contain banks of computers with Internet access. Each purchase at the cafe entitles a customer to a certain number of sweepstakes entries. The customer then determines whether the sweepstakes entries are winners by logging onto a computer.

Officials from Kentucky cities previously testified that they have seen an increase in these businesses throughout the state, often in cities bordering Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio – states that have cracked down on such business. One of the first Internet cafés in Kentucky opened in Bowling Green several years ago. In the last few months, an Internet café opened in Covington.

Wilson said the cafes advertise they are “better than bingo.” Non-profit bingos in his district have seen revenues decline as much as 40 percent because of the competition, he said.