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Liu’s Council bill targets youth gamblers

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A new bill expected to pass in the City Council this week would fine Internet cafes between $100 and $300 if they allowed students under 18 to play games during school hours.The bill, which legislators say is expected to receive the complete support of the Council, arrived after two years of debate among members to ensure that it does not apply a blanket punishment to all types of Internet cafes. Instead, the bill has been tailored to apply to gaming cafes where officials say students spend hours upon hours playing video games online with people from around the world. "In general, gaming cafe operators are conscientious in keeping kids out of their establishments during school hours. However, there are still many cases where we find kids, often ages 12, 13, and 14, in these establishments when they should be in school," said Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing). "This legislation will help ensure that our kids are in school by requiring all gaming cafe operators to do their part."The issue was brought to the attention of the councilman after Principal Joseph Cantara of IS 237 in Flushing noticed a large number of Asian students being escorted back to school in the middle of the day by truancy officers."We had a significant number of kids brought in within a short period of time," Cantara said. "We had 10 or 15 kids within a several week period. I tried contacting the gaming establishments by phone or in writing, but they just brushed me off, so I went to Liu." The problem became severe enough that parents began to complain."There's been a serious increase in young people becoming somewhat addicted to playing these games," said John Choe, a spokesman for Liu. "We've had educators and parents telling us that their children are spending too much time playing these games."The bill, entitled Intro 78, was partnered with another bill sponsored by Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), Intro 65, which requires gaming cafes to obtain licenses from the Department of Consumer Affairs.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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