May 20, 2010 (CAP News Wire) – In Southern states like North Carolina and Florida, a new controversy has been brewing in the media (and government) about the legality of so-called Internet sweepstakes cafes, which offer a form of online gambling that the state law technically permits — but which authorities would prefer didn’t exist.

Now, that controversy has hit Ohio as well. A local paper has outlined the current debate over Internet cafes that double as “poker clubs”.

The Liberty club, operating in a grey zone that it claims gives it the legal right to let its patrons play poker, is the focus of that debate. Theclub “voluntarily shut its doors April 21 and sued after attorney “Mark Finamore, legal counsel for Liberty, gave the club an opinion that zoning laws would not restrict the operation,” writes Christopher Bobby for the Tribune Chronicle. “Finamore said since owners weren’t getting a cut of the gambling proceeds, it appeared to be a legal operation.”

“The club, which reportedly has about 70 members, advertised poker tournaments and ping pong to anyone who pays a $25 annual fee and a daily usage fee of $15 to $25. Membership is open to adults 21 and older.”

The club claims that its clean “bill of health” from Finamore gave it license to operate the poker games. But Finamore himself denies this, stating that he only confirmed that the club could operate, and didn’t specify the types of businesses it could legally offer. That, he said, is one of the law’s many “gray areas”.

In related news, the Associated Press is reporting a similar controversy in Washington State, where the state-run libraries automatically block users from accessing online gambling sites. Read that article here.

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