GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Internet cafes that offer online slot machines have been popping up around the nation lately -- and now, two have opened in the Grand Rapids area.
A woman whose husband recently stopped at Lucky's Internet Cafe on Plainfield Avenue to play online slot machine games contacted Target 8. 'It sounds like a casino,' she said. 'Is it legal?'
That's the question state and local lawmakers are struggling with.
A Target 8 investigator played the online slot machines and took photos with a hidden camera.
"You can play casino-like games on the Internet," an employee explained.
People who run these businesses say they are not casinos and it's not illegal gambling. That's because people are paying for Internet time, not feeding a slot machine.
"If you win on the machine, we pay out what you win. You can surf the Net, as well," the employee said.
"You get the feeling that you're in a casino," said George Washington, who said he's been enjoying the online slot machines at Stars on 28th Street. "We just found out two weeks ago and we did pretty good, so we've been visiting almost every day 'cause it's so close."
Jim Haning, the owner of Lucky's and Stars Internet Cafe in the Grand Central Plaza on 28th Street, told Target 8 in a phone conversation that the games are like a sweepstakes that is played for prizes -- like those you'd find at a fast food restaurant -- and they're legal.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board on its website says the cafes are operating under a false premise and that they are not exempt from gambling laws.
Even though the state contends the cafes are illegal, there has been no legal action since the sweepstakes cafes began showing up in eastern Michigan more than a year ago.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office said investigations are required and that they take time. The spokesperson did not say whether or not an investigation is underway.
Haning lives in Ohio and says that's where he started several of the cafes before moving into the Michigan market. The two Grand Rapids locations opened about a month ago.
Haning said that he's aware some people are opposed to these operations, but says they are a safe activity that many people seem to enjoy.
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