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Internet Gaming Cafes Show America's Desire to Gamble Online

Despite the persistent attempts of conservative lawmakers to outlaw online casinos and Internet poker in the United States — manifested most dramatically in the UIGEA, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 — Americans still find ways to gamble online.

That’s undisputable; the two biggest poker rooms in the world in terms of traffic, for example, are open to the U.S. market. Many more poker rooms and online casinos, on the other hand, do not.

But where Americans can’t access international online casinos, they’re finding ways to gamble on the Internet, anyway — in the form of Internet cafes, physical, brick-and-mortar businesses that let customers pay for computer and Internet access—and win money in the process, whether through lottery games or the business’ own cash games.

Last year, authorities in East coast states like Ohio and Texas dealt with these Internet cafes. And in 2011, the trend is spreading to other states, including California and Florida, currently grappling with their own online gambling legal positions. 

“Legally speaking, there are three elements of gambling: prizes, chance, and consideration,” writes Anna McCarthy for California’s East Bay Express. “The first two are self-explanatory. The third means that the customer paid directly to enter the game.

“By charging customers for Internet time, or in some cases for long-distance phone time, instead of directly for entrance into a game, a sweepstakes cafe, Mecham argued, removes the third element of gambling — consideration.

“‘Simply put, the sweepstakes machines are our Monopoly game and the Internet or phone time is our cheeseburger,’” reads the SweepsCoach web site, per McCarthy’s article.

In that sense, these Internet cafes could be legal, and could form a new network for online gambling in the lack of American regulations.

Or, you could take the stance that the cafes “skate a fine line between what is legal and what is illegal,” according to Florida’s WCTV.

But that may be missing the point: What is being shown here is that Americans want to gamble online, and, laws or no, will continue to do so.

So, the sensible take-away for lawmakers is to embrace Americans’ desire to gamble online. Legalizing online gambling will help harness this new economic situation into revenue for the government; and Americans will have the freedom to what they want to do—as they have in many other nations.