Local Internet gaming cafes are responding to new privilege license fees recently approved by the Rockingham City Council.
Rockingham will now charge cafes $5,000 per location and $1,000 per machine under the new fees beginning July 1, the start of the city’s new fiscal year.
The decision was made by a unanimous vote of council members in a June 12 meeting.
City Manager Monty Crump told the council earlier this month that he was not sure how much revenue the new fees could be expected to raise because it was unclear how many of the machines were in operation.
He added that the money received would go into the city’s general fund.
Several Internet gaming cafe owners said they think the charges are a little high.
“We don’t mind giving back to the city,” said Jerry Bass, owner of Lucy’s Business Solutions. However, he called the fees “over the top.”
“For the last three years, they’ve charged us much less,” he said. “I feel like that’s a huge jump.”
He compared the cost in Rockingham of running an Internet cafe to Wadesboro. Wadesboro will charge $25 per location and $500 per machine as of July 1.
“I feel that’s more than fair,” he said. Bass also owns Anson Business Center, an Internet cafe, in Wadesboro.
“It’s hard enough for a small business to make it in today’s world,” he said. “We have a budget just like any other business.”
Billy Gray is the district manager for J&W Business Center in the Lowe’s shopping center.
“[The fees are fine], it’s just a little high, that’s all,” he said.
He does not believe the fees will be too high to continue operation.
While the fees charged by municipality can vary widely, the cost of operating an Internet cafe is also high in some other towns and cities in the state. Aberdeen, Laurinburg and Fayetteville charge $2,000 per location and $2,500 per machine.
“We’ve spoken with attorneys who represent the Internet café business statewide, and (those attorneys) feel that the fees are well in line with what they think they (the businesses) can make money at,” Crump said. “(The attorneys) said the fees are not high enough to keep (Internet cafes) from making money.”
He added that other cafes have already complied with the new fees.
“We’ve got folks that are already paying,” Crump said, explaining that the city recently received a check for $25,000 from one local Internet café.
The legal standing of the cafes is unclear at the moment and many court cases are working their way through the system but these fees are being adopted by cities across North Carolina.