PITTSBURG -- City Council members will consider extending until June a temporary moratorium on Internet cafes, which have come under increased scrutiny because of concerns that they're used primarily for online gambling and lead to criminal activity.
In June, the city passed an initial 45-day moratorium banning the opening or operation of Internet access and computer gaming businesses. On Monday, council members will hold a public hearing to extend the moratorium, which was to end Aug. 2, until June 17, 2013.
"This allows us time to do our due diligence," Mayor Ben Johnson said.
A staff report said "some jurisdictions that have approved computer gaming and Internet access have experienced criminal activity at or near these businesses."
During the moratorium, the city will look into whether Internet cafes should be permitted and, if so, what regulations, permitting and licensing requirements would apply.
Some Internet cafes try to increase their business by selling blocks of online usage time that let patrons use an electronic card or pin code to enter a sweepstakes-styles competition for a chance to win money or more time at the computer terminal.
A typical game has spinning graphics that give the impression of using a slot machine. Critics contend that online sweepstakes are akin to casino-style gambling.
But proponents say it is not gambling because you are buying Internet time that includes a chance to
An Internet cafe known as Interactive Internet was open only nine days on Railroad Avenue at the time the first moratorium was enacted, said owner Patricia Simmons. The business shut down because it did not open with a proper business license, said assistant city attorney Krysten Hicks.
"I sell Internet time," said Simmons, who also owns the Cot in the Web cafe in Antioch and other Internet cafes in California. Patrons surf the Web, work on resumes and visit social-networking sites, she said.
The online sweepstakes competition is "by no means the bulk of my business at any of my stores," she said.
Since the moratorium was passed, the city has received no applications from businesses that want to open an Internet cafe, said Hicks.
State gaming officials consider online sweepstakes illegal but have left enforcement decisions to cities. Earlier this year, Antioch had a 45-day moratorium in place while it established new rules for Internet cafes that included keeping windows uncovered and adding surveillance cameras in response to concerns that they were drawing criminal activity ranging from panhandling to assaults.
Reach Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
What: A public hearing on extending a moratorium on Internet cafes
When: 5:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Pittsburg City Council chamber, 65 Civic Ave.