Internet Cafe 'Sweepstakes' Expanding in Arkansas

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Sep. 5, 2011 12:00 am  

Lucky's Business Center in Little Rock Is one of several Internet caf?s that recently have opened in Arkansas. It allows customers to buy Internet time and play casino-type video games.

Last week, a security guard stopped a 39-year-old Maumelle woman as soon as she entered Lucky’s Business Center in Little Rock.

“I need to check your purse … to see that you don’t have a gun,” the security guard said.

Lucky’s, located in a strip mall center just south of University and Asher avenues, has more than 50 desktop computers for customers to use the Internet at 25 cents a minute or send faxes at 50 cents a page.

But that’s where the business center ends. Decorated with posters from the movie “Scarface,” Lucky’s also offers customers casino-type video games such as poker and slot machines to play for a chance to win cash prizes.

Although the video games look nearly identical to casino games, representatives of the Internet cafes insist what they are offering is not gambling but a type of sweepstakes promotion. And that business model is thriving.

Within the last several weeks, in addition to Lucky’s, Cancun Cyber Cafe & Business Center Inc. in North Little Rock and Wild Rides Business Center & Internet Cafe in Blytheville have opened.

“Stop them now before it’s too late,” Florida state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said last week. “We now have an infestation of these things.”

He estimated there were 1,000 similar Internet cafes in Florida.

“They call themselves ‘sweepstakes’ because they claim it’s a pre-ordained outcome, so therefore, that’s what separates it from gambling,” Plakon said. “But to the user, it’s the functional equivalent of gambling.”

Representatives from Lucky’s, Cancun and Wild Rides were unavailable for interviews last week.

The businesses aren’t being regulated by the Arkansas State Racing Commission, which said it only regulates thoroughbred and greyhound racing and the “games of skill” that are offered at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis.

Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said he was familiar with the Internet cafe business model, but as of last week no one has brought him a case file to review for possible criminal charges.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.