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City halts more ‘gambling cafes’

City Manager James Taylor, shown at Tuesday’s meeting, told commissioners their action wouldn’t impact internet cafes that are already in business.

City Manager James Taylor, shown at Tuesday’s meeting, told commissioners their action wouldn’t impact internet cafes that are already in business.

ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany City Commission ratified an earlier vote and unanimously decided Tuesday to prevent any new Internet “gambling cafes” from setting up shop in Albany.

Four have already opened in Albany and Tuesday’s moratorium on new business licenses won’t prevent those existing businesses from operating. The vote prevents any new businesses from opening up until the General Assembly addresses the matter in its 2012 session.

Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a crackdown on the businesses, saying those behind the organizations had mounted a campaign of “disinformation” meant to mask their true intentions — to circumvent Georgia’s anti-gambling laws.

“Over the past several months there has been a strategic campaign of disinformation regarding this issue,” said Deal, who was joined by Attorney General Sam Olens and other law enforcement officials during his news conference last week. “Today we are here united to send a clear message that we don’t want this industry here in the state of Georgia, and I’m directing the state’s resources to eliminate it from our communities.”

Deal said he would be directing state resources to eradicate the so-called “sweepstakes” businesses from Georgia.

Tuesday, Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard asked City Attorney Nathan Davis if, given the governor’s announcement, the city’s moratorium was a moot point.

“No, I don’t think so because I believe the governor intends to introduce legislation to outlaw them in 2012,” Davis said.

The moratorium, as approved Tuesday, would prohibit the businesses from obtaining a new business license within the city of Albany.

The problem is partly rooted in the governor’s decision to veto a Senate bill this year that would have specifically outlawed online sweepstakes. Deal said he vetoed the measure over technical legal flaws, but the move may have emboldened online gambling firms to step up their efforts to get a larger share of the Georgia market.

Southwest Georgia law enforcement agencies aren’t waiting to take action. Criminal investigations have already been launched and efforts are under way to shutter the businesses are in places like Bainbridge and Moultrie.

Capt. Craig Dodd of the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office told Albany commissioners last week that sheriff’s deputies were investigating the four businesses already operating in Albany.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.