Governor Nathan Deal announced a statewide crackdown on Internet gambling Thursday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation estimated there are 50 to 100 gambling businesses in the state disguised as Internet cafes. Deal has directed the GBI and district attorneys to go after the cafes.
“We know through direct information that we’ve received that they are aggressively expanding and it is now necessary for Georgia law enforcement to take a stand and investigate and have prosecution of the Internet cafes,” said GBI Director Vernon Keenan.
Deal said there has been a months-long misinformation campaign that the state will ignore the illegal gambling. But he said the state’s laws are black-and-white on gambling and officials will enforce them to the fullest extent.
Prosecutors said industry representatives have been calling them for the last six months saying their Internet cafes are legal businesses.
“There has been a concerted effort to skirt our laws, to intimidate prosecutors with complicated legal interpretations of existing law and the claim that Internet cafes that are providing gambling are not gambling and are not criminal,” said Attorney General Sam Olens. “Well if it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
Deal said although he did not sign a bill targeting illegal gaming earlier this year, that didn’t change that gambling is prohibited in Georgia.
“The General Assembly and I are in total agreement,” Deal said. “Internet sweepstakes have no place in Georgia now or in the future.”
The illegal cafes offer cash prizes to gamblers. Five Internet cafes were shut down last week in southwest Georgia.
Contributors: GPB's Jeanne Bonner contributed to this report.