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Liberty County BoC extends moratorium on Internet cafés

POSTED: December 10, 2011 7:00 a.m.

The Liberty County Board of Commissioners during its meeting Tuesday approved a 120-day extension to an existing moratorium on Internet sweepstakes cafés.

On June 7, the board approved an initial 180-day moratorium on the filing and issuances of applications, licenses, permits and approvals relating to the establishment or operations of sweepstakes Internet cafes.

When the first moratorium was issued, local officials anticipated that the General Assembly would pass state legislation to regulate the businesses during the span of the moratorium, County Attorney Kelly Davis said.

If the state does not pass a law addressing the issue during the additional 120-day period, Davis said he will draft a county ordinance to prohibit the businesses.

The businesses, many of which use prepaid Internet usage as a front for gambling, have come under scrutiny in recent months as critics have spoken against them and governments in North Carolina and Florida have taken steps to shut them down, according to various Associated Press reports.

Commissioner Connie Thrift asked Davis whether there are any of these businesses currently operating in the state.

“There are some operating — yes, ma’am — and that was one of the problems brought to the attention of the municipalities around the state, and that’s why the legislature was hoped to have acted in the last session.”

There are no businesses of such nature in the unincorporated areas of the county, Davis said. In Midway, they have had requests for licenses of Internet cafes, but the city council also intends to extend its existing moratorium.

In March, the Hinesville City Council placed a six-month moratorium on issuing business licenses for businesses that engage in Internet gaming or sweepstakes on electronic machines and devices, Internet services and telephone cards, the Courier previously reported.

The city voted in September to extend its moratorium through March 2012, with the intention of allowing state law to regulate the industry.

A bill did pass in both the House and Senate earlier this year, but Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the law and called for a stricter, clearer stance against the industries, according to www.georgia.gov.

“When I was on vacation in Florida, they were all up and down the interstate,” Thrift said.

Davis said there was not a local problem that created the need for the ban, but after the meeting, County Administrator Joey Brown said the county had received inquiries about the ability to locate the cafes in unincorporated areas.

“It’s simply gambling by another word, and it was causing significant problems in other jurisdictions, which is why we imposed the moratorium,” Davis added.

The board also voted unanimously to approve the proposed district boundaries that Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel presented during the November meeting.

The proposed boundaries will go before the state Legislature for approval and then to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance, Davis said.

In other news:

• The BoC mid-month meeting originally scheduled for Dec. 15 is canceled. Commissioners will reconvene Jan. 3.

• County Extension Agent Robert Bell introduced the board to a new 4-H agent, Kasey Bozeman.

• The county also adopted roads within the Parish Crossing subdivision off of Rye Patch Road into its public road jurisdiction. 

• The board authorized Brown to apply for a Coastal Incentive Grant to go toward planning and engineering costs related to the new marina on the county’s east end.

 

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