Internet Cafes. A Matter of Price?


Internet Cafes. A Matter of Price?

  What's the big fuss about the Internet Cafes? What am I missing? I can't say I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when the big crack down/close down happened, but I was surprised by the wholehearted support the move got from the political class. Yeah. I know both political parties were and are embarrassed that they took gobs of money from organizations fronting for Allied Veterans of the World, the supposed charity that was behind most of the operations. That embarrassment is deserved if only because no one questioned the source of the money. I wasn't surprised by that either.

  However, it was like overnight that what was legal became illegal and everyone was against it. Feds and the state moved in and announced what everyone has known for years: Internet Cafes are really gambling joints. It works something like this: you pay for the use of a computer supposedly to play games and earn some points and sometimes gifts and sometime participate in a sweepstakes. Of course, the games are really gambling games, not skill games, but games of chance, and you get paid for winning. Duh! Again, "surprise, surprise" as old Gomer Pyle used to say.

  The big hit was that the so-called charity wasn't much of a charity handing out only a fraction of the money they raised, but getting all the bennies one gets as a charity. Still, what's that have to do with gambling? The real emphasis should be on how to monitor charities to make certain they are, indeed, charities, and not job centers for people with clever ideas. Just so you don't misread this. I'm not a gambler. I don't mind a bet, or a competitive card game, but I'm not turned on by gambling. At best, it's a bit of entertainment and almost always a costly bit of entertainment. The house always wins. I used to be really opposed to organized, regulated gambling, but I don't care now, one way or the other. It's not something at which I lose my money.

  Which brings me back to the Cafes. Why can I visit the Hard Rock Cafe, or Indian Casinos, or the horse racing or dog track, or place my money down on the state run lottery, but I can't go into some little cafe in a strip mall and use a computer to dip into a gambling game? What's the difference between this and the wide spread sports betting that goes on. Newspapers even print the odds for professional games. As for the Internet Cafes, there was a legislative bill a couple of years ago that sought to regulate and tax the games. It didn't go anywhere, but all of a sudden the games are banned and people are in jail.

  Why did the games exist all this time with little organized opposition? Maybe the political contributions helped. Maybe these were the payoffs, so to speak. Maybe there were other factors. Just maybe this is about competition and protection of the existing legalized structure. How much money goes into whose pockets from the legal industry? Does it make a difference and did it make a difference here? In fairness, some law enforcement agencies have consistently complained about the cafes and some legislators have been opposed, too. They're making their point now.

  However, isn't there another point that the Cafes, if legalized, are potential tax sources, not to mention job sources, just like the other games? And, maybe there are some other games that could be added. I was in Japan once where they play a game called Pachinko, a name taken pretty much from the sounds the games make. It's like a vertical pinball machine with ball bearings cascading down the face, hitting pins, releasing more balls (or not hitting pins) and the more balls you get the higher the score. The noise is overwhelming as well as mesmerizing. The places are packed although cash payouts are illegal. The trick is that you get a token, walk outside, and cash in at some hole-in-the-wall a few doors down.

  Anyway, it would go over big here and would be a good complement to the Internet Cafes, if ruinous for your hearing.

  The argument that we need to curtail gambling in the state, reminds me of the old story about the guy who asks the girl: "If I gave you a million dollars, would you go to bed with me?" The girl replies: " I'd do that."  He then asks: " How about if I gave you $50?" To which she replies: "What do you think I am? A whore". 

  To which he replies: " We've already established that. Now we're haggling price."

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