Earlier this year, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill that prohibits businesses from collecting payments in exchange for the operation of “simulated gambling devices”. The measure was aimed at shutting down internet gaming cafes, and authorities took immediate action in March by delivering official notices to five such businesses in Mesa County.
Although all 5 conceded to the order for cessation by April 1, 2015, two are now re-opened, and are claiming to be legal under the premise of offering internet “skill games”.
Internet gaming cafes, or “sweepstakes” cafes, operate by accepting money from patrons in exchange for credits. The players then use those credits to play games over the internet via a wide spread of tabletop computers. Now that internet gaming cafes are officially defined as illegal gambling in the state, it appears some business owners think they’ve found a big enough loophole to continue operating.
Inside Internet Gaming Cafe, photo courtesy Charlie Cheeda’s Facebook
Charlie Cheeda’s (pictured right), located at 2830 North Avenue in Grand Junction, CO, is one such location. The café’s new signage blatantly promotes itself as operating within the laws of illegal gambling, calling upon visitors to take part in “Internet Certified Skill Games”.
According to the laws of Colorado, “gambling” occurs when three elements are present in a game; “consideration, chance and reward”. Charlie Cheeda’s is obviously confident that the addition of skill removes the element of chance, therefore making its internet “skill games” perfectly legal.
The second internet gaming café is so clandestine that the business does not even post a name outside its doors, nor advertise what services are to be found within. Located within a strip mall at the corner of 12th Street and Patterson Road, a glance inside reveals patrons taking advantage of free snacks and beverages as they play what look incredibly similar to slot machines.
However, as one attendant told The Daily Sentinel, the virtual (non)slots are not considered gambling by Colorado law due to two incorporated skill factors required by the player. In fact, the attendant was quick to point out a printed page that hung on the wall, depicting Colorado’s gambling statutes.
The first skill set required by players is the need to use the computer mouse to mouse-over each reel of the slot in order to bring its incessant spinning to a halt. The idea is to stop the reels in a beneficial position that will award a prize.
Next, players can actually lose a portion of their winnings based on a simplistic memory game. After each winning combination, the player is quickly shown a series of three colors, red, green and yellow, in a specific pattern. If they repeat the pattern, they win 100% of the payout. If not, they only receive 80%.
Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper told newspaper that the department was “already looking into a complaint about an Internet café,” when they received a request from the District Attorney’s Office of Mesa County to begin investigating allegations of a second café.
Should it be determined that the cafes are still conducting illegal gambling, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said civil damages can be sought “up to and including three times the dollar amount of business transacted”. Additionally, according to federal law, all assets, property and money found within the establishment may be seized and ordered forfeited.