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Internet Cafe Owners Lose Rights to Computer Equipment

March 31, 2011

An attempt by owners of Paradise Isle Internet Cafe of West Point to retrieve computer equipment that was confiscated from the cafe failed Tuesday after the Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the Clay County Circuit Court.
On Sept. 12, 2007, the Mississippi Gaming Commissions seized 39 computer terminals, a computer server and a point-of-sale system that agents believed to be illegal gaming devices. The State charged Ronnie Moore and Jeff Moore in connection with the internet cafe and the computers, which the State believed were actually slot machines.
Customers at Paradise Isle who bought $5 or more worth of prepaid telephone cards had to complete their purchase at a computer terminal where they could receive “sweepstakes points” by playing games that resembled games that are traditionally played on slot machines. Customers could redeem their points for cash or use their points won to buy more playing time.
In October of 2007, the State requested that the charges be dismissed so that the State's Cyber Crime Unit had a chance to analyze the machines. On Oct 18, 2007, the Clay County Justice Court ordered the State to file charges against the Moores by Nov. 8, 2007 or return the equipment to the Moores. “The State appealed the Justice Court order to the Clay County Circuit Court, arguing that the Justice Court lacked jurisdiction to order the return of the machines,” according to the Mississippi Court of Appeals order. “Following a non-jury trial, the Circuit Court found that the Moores had no property right in the machines because they were illegal slot machines.”
The Moores argued that the Clay County Circuit Court erred when it ruled that the seized computers were illegal slot machines, saying that the elements of consideration and chance were not present. They also argued that the Justice Court did indeed have jurisdiction over the machines and the court was right in making the order.
Regarding the Moores' first argument, the Court of Appeals referred to a case, Barber v. Jefferson County Racing Association, in which the element of chance existed at the point of sale. The Court of Appeals said the same rule applies to the Paradise Isle case. They said that an element of chance existed because the customer who bought the phone cards didn't know whether or not the card contained winning or losing sweepstakes points.
According to Mississippi Code 97-33-7, “No property right shall exist in any person...or be vested in such person, in (slot machines); and all such devices are hereby declared to be at all times subject to confiscation and destruction. It shall be the duty of all law-enforcing officers to seize and immediately destroy all such machines and devices.”
The Court of Appeals found that the Moores have no property rights to the machines because they constitute illegal slot machines.

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