The Hinesville City Council placed a six-month moratorium Thursday on issuing business licenses to businesses, like some Internet cafes, that engage in Internet gaming or sweepstakes. These activities involve electronic machines and devices, Internet services and telephone cards, city officials said.
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said this type of activity is not widely regulated and is proliferating across the state because it was tramped down in nearby North Carolina.
A moratorium on business licenses for these types of storefront operations would give local officials time to deal with the issue, particularly as a bill to regulate Internet gaming and sweepstakes is making its way through the Georgia Legislature, Edwards told the council. The city manager said the moratorium would include three such business-license applications now pending with the city.
The proposed bill Edwards referred to is HB 164, which is related to revenue and taxation, specifically to "revise and add definitions relating to coin-operated amusement machines; to provide for fees; to authorize the commissioner of revenue to retain a portion of certain fees as administrative costs; to provide that the commissioner is not authorized to impose any additional fee; to provide for non-cash redemption by gift card; to prohibit local governments from prohibiting bona fide coin-operated amusement machines or establishing the number of such machines in certain circumstances; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes," according to www1.legis.ga.gov.
The bill passed in the Georgia House with a 166-2 vote and was referred to the state Senate on March 16, according to www1.legis.ga.gov.
The resolution passed by the council claims a temporary moratorium on issuing licenses to sweepstakes Internet cafes "will not deny property owners economically viable use of their property and will afford the mayor and council the time necessary to put in place reasonable zoning regulations."
Edwards said the moratorium would not apply to businesses like Uncommon Grounds in downtown Hinesville. He said the local coffee shop is a café and does offer wireless Internet service to customers, but it does not engage in Internet-sweepstakes activities.
In other city business:
• Council members agreed to move up the paving and repair of the South Main Street extension project on the city’s road-improvement priority list, due to sections of the road experiencing varying degrees of failure. P.C. Simonton President Paul Simonton told the council the pavement on South Main between Ralph Quarterman Drive and the Fort Stewart Railroad must be fixed. The section of road that needs deep patching and asphalt overlay stretches from Ralph Quarterman to Darsey Road, and the section that will need to be reconstructed runs the length from the railroad to just north of Lyman Hall Elementary, Simonton said. He said the cost for the curb and gutter project for South Main was adjusted to about $900,000, due to rising construction costs.
• The city awarded McLendon Enterprises Inc. a $965,041.28 contract for the Justice Center drainage project. The project will be paid with money from a GEFA loan awarded to the city, the city’s water-and-sewer fund and contributing funds from Liberty County.
• Edwards informed the council that Veolia Transportation, the city’s transit operations consultant for the city’s bus system, merged with Transdev on March 4. "Veolia is pleased with this new partnership and does not foresee any changes to our current service agreement," the city manager said.
• Edwards announced that the annual county-wide planning workshop will be April 27-29 at Sea Palms Resort on St. Simons Island.