Court sides with Kern County: Internet cafes are illegal gambling

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) In a significant blow to Internet gaming cafes, an appellate court ruled Friday morning that three Bakersfield such businesses violate California gambling laws.

The Fifth Appellate District in Fresno found in favor of the Kern County District Attorney's Office, which claimed that Internet cafes, sometimes called sweepstakes cafes, are illegal gambling organizations.

"It's a good day, we're proud of the work that we've done," said Kern County Deputy District Attorney Greg Pulskamp who prosecuted the case for Kern County.

Internet cafes can now be ordered to cease all gaming activities, the District Attorney's Office said.

Two years ago, the district attorney's office filed civil lawsuits against the businesses, claiming the "sweepstakes" they offer was really illegal gambling. Kern County Superior Court Judge William Palmer agreed. But the businesses, I-zone Internet Cafe, Oz Internet Cafe and Hub and the A to Z Cafe appealed the ruling.

Friday morning, the Fifth Appellate District upheld the ruling by the trial judge, William Palmer.

"Judge Palmer did an excellent job and he was correct in ordering all of these businesses to cease and desist any and all gaming activity," said Pulskamp. The Appellate Court's ruling said Pulskamp, affirms that sweepstakes cafes may be ordered to cease all gaming activity.

One defense lawyer conceded the court ruling to be a victory for the prosecution.

"The court's ruling is a victory for the district attorney's office," said Bakersfield attorney William Slocumb, who represented John Stidman, owner of I-zone Internet Cafe.

Pulskamp said his office will meet with other law enforcement agencies to review what steps to take next in closing down internet sweepstakes cafe's that are still operating.

"We intend to go forward with enforcement very quickly," said Pulskamp. "This opinion gives us a basis on which to move forward with the next phase of enforcement."

Slocumb said his client has not yet decided whether to appeal the court decision to the California Supreme Court. It's not yet known if other businesses will appeal as well.