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Front Royal facility had closed Dec. 1 due to violation of business license
By Ben Orcutt - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- High Rollers Internet Cafe is back in business.
Owner Lawson "Bubba" Mangum said Wednesday that the business at 115 Water St. has been reopened since March 9. However, Mangum said he did not wish to provide any information for a newspaper interview when questioned further.
The business first opened on Nov. 19, but its license was revoked by the town on Nov. 30 after an inspection of the premises revealed that it was not operating as a restaurant, which had been indicated by the language of "Internet Cafe" on Mangum's first application for a business license.
Mangum closed the business Dec. 1, and appealed the town's revocation of his license to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
However, on Feb. 22, the BZA denied Mangum's appeal.
That same month, legislation sponsored by Del. Clifford L. "Clay" Athey Jr. to clarify a ban on Internet casino gaming passed both chambers of the General Assembly.
Richard Kurzenknabe, code enforcement officer for the Planning and Zoning Department, says in his Nov. 19 report of visiting High Rollers that it was explained to him "that for a certain amount, you were entitled to computer time and/or the ability to make a set number of 'rolls,' which he [presumed employee] likened to a slot machine, while playing one of the available on-line games. Successful players could accumulate 'sweepstakes credits' and could win a share of the pot, which I believe, he stated could be $11,000."
Mangum reapplied for a business license March 4, stating that he was selling Internet time, as well as business and office supplies and providing copying, faxing and shipping services.
Bruce Drummond, director of planning and zoning for the town of Front Royal, said Wednesday that he is unsure how Athey's legislation will affect Mangum and High Rollers Internet Cafe.
"That's not my call," Drummond said. "That's strictly depending on what he's doing. On what he applied for on his business license are permitted uses in the ... zoning district. You have to base it on the information provided to me in the application. Despite the fact that the name is still High Rollers Internet Cafe, he says he's selling office products and renting computer time, which is created in the technology services in the ... district."
During Monday night's Town Council meeting, Councilman Thomas H. Sayre said he recently got a call from a constituent concerned about the activity at High Rollers.
"It is my understanding that the new law goes into effect on July 1st, clarifying the meaning of the gambling statute, in effect giving circuit court judges the ability to interpret gambling laws more clearly," Sayre said Wednesday, reiterating his remarks at the meeting.
Athey said there are jurisdictions around the state that are currently prosecuting Internet casino operations.
"Even though it is true that our law does not become law until then, until July 1st, I certainly think that in reading the statute that you could glean from that that it was the intent of the General Assembly that the laws that exist today, that anybody who's operating an Internet casino enterprise would be in violation of that law," Athey said.
"Once again, it doesn't say that you can't operate a business where you have computers there or you're selling Internet time or things of that nature. It's more centered in on the game itself. Is it a gambling game? Is it a game where at the end of the day you can win money? And secondly, if you're utilizing that computer to put on these kinds of casino sorts of games, then that computer itself is a gambling device, which it's illegal to own and operate a gambling device.
"I've never seen the games that they play, but I would certainly say that I think on some levels if the law that currently exists, even between now and July 1st, would permit an investigation and a prosecution under the existing law because the law that goes into effect in July merely clarifies that the existing law would have made it illegal as well."