Legality of Internet cafes argued in Fresno

Published 02/13 2014 07:21PM

Updated 02/13 2014 07:36PM

FRESNO, CA -- The battle over the legality of Internet sweepstakes cafés before state justices in the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno Thursday. Some Bakersfield business owners are appealing a Kern County judge's ruling that games in their cafés are gambling.

It's a hearing more than a year in the making. In July of 2012 a Kern County Superior Court judge granted an injunction to shut down internet cafes in Bakersfield.

But now those businesses are fighting back with two cases heard in the Fifth District Court of Appeal Thursday afternoon.

"The trial court got it right," said Kern County Deputy District Attorney Greg Pulskamp.

"I feel that we are correct on the law," said John Westen, the attorney representing some of the Internet cafes in the appeal.

Sweepstakes cafes sell Internet time and give out points to people who can use those points to play a computer game and win big. Pulskamp told the court Thursday that's gambling.

"The more time that I spend on this case with the facts and the law, the more convinced that I am that it is gambling," said Pulskamp.

The attorney representing some of the cafes, including the Oz Zone, argued otherwise.

"Our client's operations did not violate the relevant series of statutes, they were not illegal slot machines and they were not in any way an illegal lottery," said Westen.

John Westen told the court if the state wants cafes outlawed, they should use the legislature.

"One always wants the legislature to speak because that's a better approach in our tripod-type system of government. It's better for the legislature to establish laws, that's its job." said Westen.

But Pulskamp said the law is clear already. There's nothing about the current state of the law that is ill-equipped to handle the situation right now.

Now that the cases have been submitted the judges have 90 days to submit a decision but Pulskamp expects that decision to come within a couple of weeks.

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