SLED Agents Raid Internet Cafes, Seize Sweepstakes Machines
State Law Enforcement Division agents and Richland County Sheriff's deputies conducted two raids in the Midlands of Internet cafes.
Editor's note: This story has been updated.
Two Internet cafes in the Midlands were raided Wednesday afternoon, according to a report from The State.
State Law Enforcement Division agents and the Richland County Sheriff's Department seized sweepstakes machines from Cafe 21 on Sparkeberry Lane Extension in Columbia and at Shatter's Internet on St. Andrews Road.
According to The State, a Richland County magistrate judge was at Cafe 21 to determine whether the computers and the games were a violation of South Carolina's gambling laws.
Three people were arrested at Cafe 21 but no arrests were made at Shatter's, according to a report from WIS-TV.
Thirty-eight machines were seized during the raids, according to the repot.
Two businesses on Lake Murray Boulevard in Irmo were also raided last week.
SLED agents seized sweepstakes machines at both the Pitt Stop (Shell gas station) and JP Mart (Exxon gas station) on Lake Murray Boulevard, Irmo Police Chief Brian Buck said.
The machines can be seen in convenience stores in Irmo and West Columbia, and across the state.
Users purchase Internet time or phone cards and are given a chance to play different games like poker for a chance to win a prize.
Irmo Town Council is one of several local governing bodies addressing the sweepstakes machines.
Three of the five council members voted in favor of the stamp fee.
Mayor Hardy King and councilwoman Kathy Condom voted against the ordinance because they agree with law enforcement that the machines are illegal.
Richland County Council recently delayed action on Internet sweepstakes cafes and decided to discuss it at an upcoming work session.
Bob Brown, Irmo’s town administrator, said there were 25 machines in the town.
Fifteen permits have been given since council approved the ordinance, Brown said.
Businesses have 30 days after the ordinance was passed to apply for the permit.
While council has approved a stamp fee for the machines, it hasn’t taken action on zoning for Internet cafes.
An ordinance on a temporary moratorium on the sweepstakes machines was proposed but council didn't approve it. The Irmo Planning Commission has decided to take no action on the matter.
Buck previously told Patch that the sweepstakes machines were “just video poker by another name.”
“It seems clear to me that they are illegal,” Buck said. “What everybody likes to quote is a separate section in the alcohol code, [Section 61-4-580].”
“[The sweepstakes contests] from Budweiser that you can win a trip, that’s a sweepstakes,” he said. “That is a game of chance.”
“That has nothing to do with a video machine. It’s a sweepstakes no different than Publishers Clearinghouse, however all of the vendors for the new video poker machines are quoting this law and I just don’t think it pertains to it.”
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