"Cyber cafes." "Sweepstakes parlors." "Internet cafes." They are known by different names, but these establishments exist in a legal gray area in most locations across the United States. They offer games of chance with prizes in conjunction with other services, such as Internet access or telephone cards.
Owners of these establishments often argue that what goes on is not "gambling," but some state Attorneys General have taken notice - including Massachusetts
Sweepstakes Cafes Popping Up in North Carolina’s Low-Income Neighborhoods
This February 2010 article from North Carolina's Independent Weekly
highlights the fact that sweepstakes cafes are flourishing in the state - particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
Sweepstakes Cafes - Coming to Your Low-Income Neighborhood
Internet Sweepstakes: Coming to a Strip Mall Near You
Internet sweepstakes cafes are popping up all over the country. One of the highlights from the article below is a quote from someone making big money in the sweepstakes industry on his customer base: "Lower-income customers are coming in because they're bad at math...It's like the lottery. The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. They're coming in to try and catch a big break."
Strip-Mall Casinos Multiply Across Nation
State officials crack down on Internet cafe gambling
Internet cafes are becoming increasingly popular, with more and more opening up in malls and gas stations. However, there is more than just web-surfing available at these cafes- many are home to illegal gambling in the form of computers that are made to look, sound, and feel like slot machines. Players buy time on these machines and use them until their time is up. The problem, state officials say, is that states do not collect tax revenue on winnings from these machines, which is why many states are beginning to more aggressively target these cafes, called "Internet sweepstakes cafes". Unfortunately for states, as this USA Today
story explains, these cafes are harder to shut down than they thought.
2014 States battle illegal gambling at Internet cafes
Internet sweepstakes cafes designed to addict
Nearly two-thirds of gambling addicts at Maryhaven, an addiction-treatment center in Columbus, Ohio, point to Internet cafe gambling as the root of their problem. Internet cafes, officially banned but up for referendum vote in November, allow players to buy time on machines that feel like real poker or slot machines. The problem that many problem gamblers find is that they are often so much closer than a real casino, thus making them more tempting. Unlike casinos, which have to give a portion of profits back to the community by law, these machines benefit only the operator. Internet cafes have all the same addictive qualities as a casino, but are much more convenient and easy to access, which is why this Columbus Dispatch
editorial calls for their permanent ban from the state of Ohio.
2013 Hooked by design