Gambling den in Excelsior evades police, city pressure 

click to enlarge City Business Center in the Excelsior was still operating Thursday as an Internet gambling cafe despite an April police order for it to shut down or face consequences. Police did not comment Thursday. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • City Business Center in the Excelsior was still operating Thursday as an Internet gambling cafe despite an April police order for it to shut down or face consequences. Police did not comment Thursday.

Gambling is continuing at an Excelsior storefront, despite pressure from police and political leaders who point out that the computer-based slot machines are illegal and create a public nuisance.

Over the past few years, Internet sweepstakes cafes began appearing along Mission Street in the Excelsior and Outer Mission neighborhoods. Advertising their services as Internet cafes or business centers, the cafes allowed patrons to exchange money for credits or time on the computers.

The computers could be used for basic office functions or e-mail, but they also offered slots, Keno, or other casino games. Users can gamble credits on the games -- and if they win, they then cash out the credits for money.

Several of the sweepstakes cafes have been shut down: one, NetStop, closed after City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit.

Another, Cybertime, voluntarily closed down in the spring, after an appellate court in the Central Valley ruled that sweepstakes cafes constitute gambling.

However, the games are on at a lone survivor: City Business Center, which, at 4837 Mission St., is a short walk away from Balboa High School.

Police in April said they informed City Business Center to shut down or face consequences.

But as of Thursday, slots were still going at computers at the small storefront, signage for which boasts its services as a sweepstakes cafe.

Neighborhood residents as well as Supervisor John Avalos, who represents the area, say that the problems that accompanied the other gambling cafes are now present there.

The cafes are open until 4 a.m., attract a seedy clientele, and "contribute to people not feeling safe on the corridor," Avalos told The San Francisco Examiner on Thursday.

"I thought The City would be able to shut City Business Center down, especially after NetStop and Cybertime folded, but the City Business Center gaming site has persisted," he said, adding that the problem has become "intractable."

It's not immediately clear why warnings from police have gone unheeded.

A police spokesman deferred to Ingleside Police Station Capt. Timothy Falvey for comment. Messages for Falvey, who told The Examiner in April that he had personally delivered the warning to City Business Center, were not immediately returned Thursday.

There were four calls for police service made in the immediate area over the past week, according to the Police Deparment's CrimeMaps data. All were complaints for disturbing the peace.

Gambling is banned in San Francisco, though there are card rooms throughout the Bay Area, including San Mateo, Emeryville and Hayward.

A message left at City Business Center for Olivia Franco, the business' manager, was not immediately returned Thursday.

Calls to the phone number of the person to whom the business is registered, Rick Caviglia of Castro Valley, were not returned.

It's possible Herrera could file a lawsuit against City Business Center as well, though it was not clear Thursday when, or if that would happen. A spokesman for Herrera had no comment.

Before NetStop closed down, women in the area complained of harassment and residents said loitering, public drunkenness and urinating were frequent.

Now, "that's migrated down to City Business Center," said Gwynn MacLellan, a neighborhood resident who serves as the safety coordinator for the Excelsior Action Group, which is working to beautify the Mission Street commercial corridor.

"They're operating a gambling institution," she said. "That's the main problem."

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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