The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

April 17, 2013

Sweepstakes raid

TPD disconnects Past Time Internet cafe


TARBORO — Tarboro Police Chief Damon Williams stayed true to his words by raiding Past Time internet cafe Wednesday. Police officers seized at least 25 computers and other equipment connected with the establishment. Six customers were in the building at 2109 St. Andrew Street when the raid occurred. No arrests were made in the incident.

After legislation was passed in January that made internet cafes illegal, Williams said he would abide by the law and close those establishments in Tarboro.

Before the January statute, four internet cafes operated in Tarboro. When the law came into effect, Williams said he gave the businesses 10 days to comply with the new state law. Past Time did close at one point but reopened later, Williams said.

"They didn't take us serious," Williams said. "We're not going to allow anyone to publicly violate the general statues whether it be internet sweepstakes or drug dealers. If they do, I'm going to make them famous."

Williams said the customers inside the establishment cooperated and did not cause incidents. One of the customers who was inside Past Time during the raid displayed her disappointment by asking law enforcement questions. The customer stayed in the vicinity of the business until the officers had completed itheir work.

Another customer said he visited Past Time as often as he could. He asked, "If it is in violation, why isn't playing the lottery a violation? It's gambling too."

It took the officers more than an hour to remove the equipment and other merchandise connected with the operation. One of the pieces of equipment included a chalk board that listed the amount of recent winnings. The highest amount won on April 5 at $1,971. The seized equipment will be stored by the police department until the court decides what to do with it, Williams said.

The January ruling put a halt on North Carolina's lucrative internet cafe businesses. Owners with large-scale operations immediately fought the courts to keep its doors opened. Sweepstakes software companies attempted to revisie the software to comply with the new law.

During the fight, some internet cafes reopened throughout the state. Williams said the decision on how to handle the situation was left up to the discretion of the authority in its jurisdiction.

Before the new law, eight internet cafes operated on the outskirts of Tarboro in the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Department's jurisdiction. As of Tuesday, only three remained opened.