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Phone card video terminals still in business


25/04/2011
Phone cards video terminals continue to operate in the city despite emergency regulations from the Attorney General`s Office earlier this month banning them and cyber sweepstakes cafes.

Two phone card video terminals reappeared Friday at Dusty`s, a convenience store at Union and Purchase streets, after they were removed shortly after the issuance of the regulations by Attorney General Martha Coakley on April 7.

Although no one was playing either machine in the middle of the afternoon Monday, there were receipts at each one, indicating that customers had played them.

The store originally had three machines, which were removed shortly after the attorney general`s ruling.

Harry Pierre, a spokesman for the Attorney General`s Office, said the regulations make operation of the machines illegal under the state`s Consumer Protection Act but don`t close down the establishments.

It made the operation of the machines and the machines and the terminals illegal, Pierre said Monday.

What we tell consumers is that operation of the machines is illegal, he said.

Following the release of the regulations, Pierre said his office noticed that establishments with phone card machines started to comply with the law.

At Internet cafes, customers buy time online and play video sweepstakes games for cash prizes.

With phone card video gaming terminals, customers buy a phone card from the terminal and, as a complimentary benefit, get to play video slots sweepstakes games.

SouthCoast has seen a cyber cafe in Fairhaven and several phone cards video gaming terminals pop up at establishments across the region.

Mayor Scott W. Lang said Monday night he intends to go to the city`s Licensing Board and Police Department and have them enforce the attorney general`s regulations.

We`ll go to any other establishment in the city and tell them to cease and desist, he said.

From my perspective, they are running a gaming parlor and that`s clearly illegal, he said.

The mayor said he wasn`t aware that Dusty`s or any other establishment in the city had resumed operation of the phone card video terminals.

City Council President Brian Gomes said he doesn`t believe the council has any plans to get involved in the issue at this point and will let Coakley`s office handle it on a statewide level. However, if necessary, the council could always pass an ordinance banning them, he said.

Leo`s Place, a cyber cafe in Fairhaven owned by Fall River City Councilor Leo O. Pelletier, was raided April 1 by state police assigned to Coakley`s office and closed down.

The establishment remains closed and Pelletier couldn`t be reached for comment Monday about his plans.

Brian Bowcock, a member of the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen, said the town sent out notices about a week ago, citing the attorney general`s regulation and requesting that establishments with phone card video terminals remove them. He said he will check on the compliance later this week.

He said, if necessary, to eliminate both cyber cafes and stores with phone card video terminals, selectmen will seek Town Meeting approval for a bylaw banning them.

Rep. Steven Canessa, D-New Bedford, said the issue of cyber cafes and phone card video terminals will not be addressed separately by the Legislature unless the attorney general specifically requests it. He said it could be dealt with by the Legislature as part of an expanded gaming bill, which is scheduled for a hearing May 4.


 

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