Civil complaint alleges that Net Stop’s on-site computerized slot machines violate state and local law, draw more criminal activity, and create a neighborhood nuisance
SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 7, 2013)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed suit against an Excelsior District Internet cafe for an illegal on-site gambling operation and related nuisances that have been responsible for more than 200 calls to police since opening its doors a year ago. The complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning alleges that Net Stop Business Center is violating state and local law by maintaining computerized slot machine games that allow customers to purchase electronic “points” and then redeem their winnings for cash.
The opening of Net Stop at Mission Street and Excelsior Avenue corresponded with the beginning of a dramatic increase in criminal activity in the area, according to Herrera’s complaint. Net Stop’s location was the subject of two calls for service made to the San Francisco Police Department between Nov. 2011 and Oct. 2012, but in the year leading up to Oct. 2013, police responded to complaints involving Net Stop’s location on no less than 202 occasions.
“Gambling is strictly regulated in California for a reason, and Net Stop’s owner should know better than to think he can get away with flouting state and local law,” Herrera said. “When one spot in the City sees a hundred-fold increase in police calls in a single next year, the City will move aggressively to protect the neighborhood and send a message to other would-be scofflaws that similar schemes won’t be tolerated. This is criminal activity creating more criminal activity, and we’re asking the court to put a stop to it and impose the maximum penalties under the law.”
The San Francisco Police Department’s ongoing efforts to combat the problems at Net Stop have been critical to the investigation, and to the construction of the lawsuit. “Chief Suhr and the entire Police Department deserve a lot of credit for the work they’ve done to make this possible,” Herrera said. “They’ve built a body of evidence for us that we can take into court with the highest confidence.”
Herrera was not alone in his praise of today’s legal action. “Net Stop's blatant violation of the law is doing real damage to quality of life in the area,” said Supervisor John Avalos, whose district includes the location in question. “It has put a terrible strain on the neighborhood, but today we’ve taken a big step toward shutting it down.”
The civil suit details the connection between illegal gambling operations and the reduced ability of those living around them to enjoy their neighborhood in safety, together with the drain on police services elsewhere in San Francisco caused by the constant need to monitor and respond to problems at a single location year round.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare Net Stop to be a public nuisance, to close its doors for one year, to force the forfeiture and sale of its gambling equipment to offset the damage that the nuisance has caused to the local community, and to impose civil penalties for each act of unfair competition.
The case is: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Thomas Lacey et al, San Francisco Superior Court, filed Nov. 7, 2013.