Thursday August 18,2011 : Georgia governor sends a clear message to internet cafe operators
Georgia governor Nathan Deal sent a clear message to internet cafe operators this week – "provide online gambling and we will close you down."
Speaking in Jacksonville, the governor said Thursday that his officials are making a unified effort to prosecute as many as 100 Internet cafes that have opened up in the last six months around the state, as officials claim these are a cover for illegal gambling.
However, defiant cafe owners have told prosecutors that they have found a loophole in state law.
Gov. Deal, flanked by legislative leaders, prosecutors and law-enforcement officials, told a state Capitol press conference that he intends to fight back.
“Today we’re coming together to send a clear message to an illegal gaming industry and the concerned communities throughout the state of Georgia,” he said. “Our state law prohibits gambling. The code is black and white on that issue.”
State officials allege that some of these internet "casinos" have as many as 500 computer terminals where customers pay for the chance to win cash prizes.
The operators rake in “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that they take out of state or even overseas, according to Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
He said it’s not concentrated in one part of the state, and local law-enforcement officials from across Georgia have reported it.
Attorney General Sam Olens said his office will assist local prosecutors in court battles over what he called a tortured legal interpretation. He pointed out that conviction on a gambling charge is a felony punishable of one to five years imprisonment. Fines and confiscation of computer equipment are also possible.
Georgia’s constitution specifically prohibits gambling. The voters approved an amendment in the early 1990s to allow the state to operate a lottery to fund education, but Deal said it was carefully crafted to block any other forms of gaming.
These new casino-like operations compete with the state lottery and risk driving down revenues, he said.