A South San Francisco business is suing the city and its police department to stop the destruction of 30 seized computers alleged to have used as gambling slot machines.
On June 26, police came to Computer Time, at 221 Gellert Blvd., and seized 30 computers with built-in screens, two desktop computers and one Q-See DVR machine. Police allege the devices were being used as slot machines through a sweepstakes giveaway program.
This is similar to a case back in April in which “The Hub” had computers taken by San Bruno police as part of a suspected illegal online gambling bust. “The Hub” filed a lawsuit against police and the city to bar the destruction of property as well.
Ryker Amusements, Inc., the corporate owners who ran Computer Time, shut down the business following the seizure of the materials, according to Ryker’s attorney John Weston. Weston said the business served clients who didn’t have computers and wanted to temporarily pay to use their computers.
“The seizures are very inappropriate,” Weston said. “Our client is a law-abiding, good citizen. Two critical things are wrong — they weren’t running an illegal lottery and they didn’t have illegal slot materials.”
To define a machine as an illegal slot machine, Weston said, it needs to have something of value put into it and have some element of chance that allows for random winners. Weston said none of these things fit the bill for what Computer Time was doing and that companies like McDonald’s run sweepstakes programs.
South San Francisco police Sgt. Bruce McPhillips said gambling cases are still rare for their department but they have seen more Internet cafes in recent years.
“As the Internet and government try to come to a median on what’s legal/illegal, people are trying to push the envelope,” McPhillips said . “Until there’s a bright line drawn, people will continue to push the envelope. We just started seeing these Internet cafes in the last two to three years.”
In “The Hub” case, two patrons were arrested for outstanding warrants, two patrons were arrested for possession of narcotics and one was arrested for possession of a dangerous weapon (non firearm), according to San Bruno police.
According to San Bruno City Attorney Marc Zafferano, “The Hub” computer seizure complaint is pending since the criminal case is still underway and the computers were seized as part of a search warrant in the case.
South San Francisco police gave Ryker notice it will destroy the devices 30 days from the date of notice, July 26.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105