Internet sweepstakes cafes are popping up in Michigan, raising questions about their legality among local government leaders and law enforcement agencies.
The Detroit News reports Monday that more than 10 of the cafes, which have become established in some other states, are open in Michigan. The newspaper says the state lacks regulations for such businesses and some local zoning ordinancesdon't address the matter.
The businesses offer computer terminals on which customers, who buy Internet time, can play casino-like sweepstakes games online.
"Some people refer to it as gambling, but it's not," said Jerry Diamond, owner of Diamond's Restaurant & Lounge, to the Detroit News. "It falls under the sweepstakes law " the same laws that McDonald's, Wendy's or Pepsi use for their sweepstakes. They're selling the product and you can enter the sweepstakes. I'm selling Internet time."
Operators say the cafes are legal businesses under the state's sweepstakes law, meaning the games they offer have predeterminedwinners and no chance is involved, unlike casinos. Critics dispute that and say the operations are Internet cafes in name only.