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sabato 21 febbraio 2015

Kentucky: Electronic gaming issues taken up by Senate panel

How technology is revolutionizing gambling and threatening traditional bingo and state lotteries was evident today at a hearing of a state Senate committee designated to examine such issues.

The Senate Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations approved three bills designed to do everything from curtail online gaming to allowing nonprofit bingos to compete in the computer age. The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill 28 sponsor Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said his legislation is intended to make clear in the law that “Internet cafes” are illegal. The cafes are for-profit businesses that sell Internet access for a chance to play computer-based, casino-style games in which customers can win cash prizes.

Wilson said the café’s advertise they are “better than bingo.” Non-profit bingos in his district have seen revenues decline as much as 40 percent because of the competition, he said.

Bryanna Carroll, of the Kentucky League of Cities, testified that Internet cafes are located in buildings that contain banks of computers with Internet access. She said each purchase entitles the customer to a certain number of sweepstakes entries. The customer then determines whether the sweepstakes entries are winners by logging onto a computer.

“While the general consensus is these operations violate Kentucky law, there is some disagreement among those in the municipal law community,” Carroll said. “This uncertainty has made it extremely difficult on Kentucky cities to regulate ahead of their opening.”

She said many of the cafes often present business license applications that appear to show valid and legitimate business purposes.

Officials from Kentucky cities have seen an increase in these businesses throughout the state – often in cities bordering Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio. Carroll said she attributes the increase in those regions to other states prohibiting Internet cafes. Wilson said the Bowling Green region has six Internet cafes.

Senate Bill 33 sponsor Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville said his legislation would legalize the electronic versions of pull-tab bingo tickets that have become staples of church festivals and other charity events across Kentucky.

Lancaster Bingo Company President Johnathan Smith testified about the electronic version of the pull-tab game while holding up a computer tablet featuring the game. He said many charities across Kentucky have expressed interest in the electronic game.

Willie Byrd, executive director of Options Unlimited in Shepherdsville, operates one such charity. He said it appeals to a younger demographic and would give his organization tighter control of the money that exchanges hands at bingos.

Plus, Byrd added, it is more environmentally friendly.

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