The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 31, 2013

Gray areas in law slows closing of Internet cafes

The Daily Southerner
Calvin Adkins

TARBORO — Edgecombe County Sheriff's Department is still in limbo concerning the operation of internet cafes while the Tarboro Police Department has shut the businesses in its jurisdiction down.

State legislature was passed Jan. 10 that deemed internet cafes illegal. Edgecombe County Sheriff Department and the Tarboro Police Department issued letters to all the cafes owners, in there respective jurisdiction, to close the business in 10 days.

Tarboro Police Chief Damion Williams said one of three businesses went beyond the deadline. An officer went back to the business and issued a final warning.

"We had only one problem," Williams said. "We went back (to that business) and issued another warning. We told them that was the last warning. If we go back, the employee and the owner will be arrested."

In Edgecombe two cafes continue its operation. Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight explained that county ordinances that are different from those in the city, have not allowed his department to enforce the rules

"We are reviewing the statutes and definitions to see what are clear violations," Knight said. "Then we will begin the investigations into the machines for violations. We must define the violations and investigate the cages and machines to determine the violations. Then we will meet with the District Attorney’s office to review our finding prior to charging and seizing the machines."

Internet Cafe owners across the state have said they will appeal the ruling. As of Wednesday no appeal has not be filed.

Since the state outlawed video poker machine six years ago, Internet cafes have become popular statewide. There are at least eight in Edgecombe County including the Tarboro businesses.

The state court ruled in two cases in which amusement machine and other companies sought to overturn a 2010 law banning sweepstakes machines as a form of gambling. The high court said the law was a constitutional effort to close a loophole since the state outlawed video poker machines in 2007.  

The decision reverses a March ruling by the state Court of Appeals, which said the move to outlaw the games was written too broadly and was unconstitutional.

In a story published by the Associated Press, State Attorney General Roy Cooper said he doesn’t anticipate widespread Internet cafe raids across the state.