by Max Brantley
Good article in this week's Arkansas Business by Mark Friedman about the arrival in Arkansas of so-called Internet cafes where the big revenue appears to be produced not by Internet access but by playing casino-style video games. Law officers are looking, but not yet ready to take action.
In a state where slot machines at race tracks can be winked at as "electronic games of skill" despite a constitutional prohibition on gambling, it's not exactly surprising that entrepreneurs are looking for similar loopholes. Such machines have swept several southern states and prompted legislative efforts to ban them.
Operators of the games claim they are merely "sweepstakes" akin to the Monopoly game at McDonald's. The big difference is that the number of points you get to "play" the sweepstakes is directly related to how much money you turn over to the "cafe" operator. Friedman, in playing the games, reports seeing no one checking e-mail or surfing the web for the latest news — just playing video games with the "points" they'd bought.