A request for local authorities to crack down on illegal gambling from Governor Nathan Deal Thursday led to the immediate closure of Covington Business Center, located in the Covington Corners shopping center.
According to Deal's speech, between 50 and 100 active gambling sites have set up shop in Georgia and "laying the groundwork for the move by challenging local prosecutors in each district with a flawed interpretation of state law."
District Attorney Layla Zon said that before the internet café sites even opened, owner's defense attorneys were contacting prosecutors, telling them the cafes were legal and that the "sweepstakes" programs owners used were tantamount to the Monopoly game annually played at McDonald's.
The way the cafes - or in this case, business center - operated, was that customers would pay for internet time or phone cards and use those to bet points on computers loaded with games like poker or slots. Winners would be awarded prizes, such as canned coffee or car wax.
"Today, we are coming together to send a clear message to the illegal gaming industry, and to concerned communities throughout Georgia: Our state law prohibits gambling," said Deal. "The code is black and white on this issue. Though some have sought to further their own interests by spreading the impression that the thwarting of these laws would be winked at, we are here to reassure Georgians that we will prosecute anyone skirting the law in this area," said Deal in his speech.
Immediately following Deal's speech, Zon and Captain Phillip Bradford with the Covington/Newton County Special Investigations Unit went to Covington Business Center and shut them down.
Zon said that when they spoke with employee inside the business and with the owner by phone, telling them their business was illegal, they put up no fight and locked the doors. The patrons inside the store claimed ignorance but were told that in the future, they could also be charged with gambling.
Covington Business Center was the only establishment of this sort in Newton County that authorities and prosecutors are aware of, however one did just open in Monroe, which is part of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit over which Zon reigns.