Gaming Department Raids Phoenix Internet Cafe, Arrests Manager

The Arizona Department of Gaming and Phoenix police raided a Phoenix Internet cafe on Wednesday, arresting the manager in connection with an illegal gambling operation.

Bradley John Babinski Jr., 28, was arrested after 1 p.m. Wednesday following an investigation of Netclix Internet Cafe at 3575 West Dunlap Avenue where undercover officers observed illegal activity on several visits. Several other people were arrested during the raid on unrelated warrants or drug charges.

Wednesday's raid also followed a May 24 robbery of the cafe that is still unsolved. In that case, police told one news outlet that "it was an odd place to hold up." Phoenix Police Sergeant Derek Elmore told Fox 10 News (KSAZ-TV) that the robber possibly "had some inside knowledge about what kind of money they had on hand there . . . or what kind of money they produce on hand . . . or maybe he's a former employee."

Whoever committed the robbery, the crime seems to put the cafe on the state gaming department's radar.

On June 10, gaming inspectors checked out Netclix and served Babinski with a notice that his business was conducting illegal gaming. After that, undercover officers went into Netclix on June 15, 16, and 18 and reportedly observed that the illegal activity was continuing.

Numerous computers and other evidence was seized during Wednesday's raid, effectively shutting down the business for now.

Customers of Netclix would pay the employee on duty to purchase Internet time, records state.

"The Internet time is used to play casino games and sweepstakes," says Babinski's booking sheet. "These games pay out money for winnings. Thus the customer pays money to play unregulated games with the expectation of winning money."

Now, maybe you're thinking, "do they mean an unregulated game for prizes like the upcoming U.S. Open Chess Championship?" We know poker advocate John Schnaubelt must be wondering that. But following a formal complaint last month by Schnaubelt about the chess match, in which players buy in for the chance of receiving cash prizes, the gaming department decided to do nothing. Amanda Jacinto of the gaming department told New Times for our June 15 article on Schnaubelt's attempted trouble-making that her agency believes the 116th annual chess event "doesn't rise to a level where it needs an investigation."

Internet cafes and off-reservation poker rooms where people can get their gambling jones obviously do rise to the level where investigations are needed, though. 

We called Jacinto for comment on the Netclix case — we'll let you know what she says if she calls back. We also left a message for Phoenix police.

One important question still unanswered by authorities is who owns this business and the level of suspected involvement by the owner. State records have no official filings on Netclix.

UPDATE: 1pm — Sergeant Jonathan Howard of the PPD got back to us, (though we still haven't heard from the gaming department.) Here's what Howard told us:

"Ray, I do not know who the owners of the business are but I can assure you that our investigation into the enterprise in continuing. The original contact with the business regarding the criminal activity occurred after May 24th. I have not seen an update regarding the arrest of anyone involved in the earlier robbery at this location."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern