Salas: Internet cafes a threat to public safety, local businesses; introduces bill to stop them

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A state assemblyman seeks to end the proliferation of internet cafes in Bakersfield by defining "sweepstakes" as an illegal activity.

Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) announced Wednesday that he has introduced Assembly Bill 1439 to fight the rising number of illegal sweepstakes gambling cafes.

The bill closes a loophole in the law that will clearly define the illegality of gambling at internet cafes. The bill will also make these activities an unfair business practice that will permit cities, counties, and the DOJ to bring civil lawsuits against the individuals at the center of these activities.

“Illegal sweepstakes gambling cafes are a threat to both public safety and local business,” said Salas. “This legislation will stop these casino-style gambling cafes and give local governments and the Department of Justice the tools needed to shut them down permanently.”

Kern County business owners have voiced concern about the negative consequences of these cafes, including many reports of increased crime such as prostitution, drug trafficking, and violence.

In December 2013, the Bakersfield Police Department found methamphetamine and a large amount of cash at one of these establishments. As a result, nearby businesses are hurting as their customers seek to avoid the crowds and crime that such cafes attract.

READ | Police: Internet cafe employees busted for selling meth:

The pattern of these businesses has been to establish themselves in an economically depressed area and accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars through illegal sweepstakes gambling, Salas said.

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