MASSACHUSETTS INTERNET CAFES SHUT DOWN
02nd April, 2011 at 04:16:40
Latest 'sweepstakes' raids confiscate equipment
Three internet cafes in Massachusetts, two of them owned by a town councillor, were raided and shut down this week on allegations of illegal gambling.
The Boston Globe and other local media report that premises in Fall River, Fairhaven and Chicopee were all visited and equipment confiscated following complaints to the police by neighbouring businesses.
Councillor Leo O. Pelletier of Fall River, who owns two of the cafes, claims that he is being unfairly targeted by the state attorney general, Martha Coakley, who is looking into the legality of the online sweepstakes games offered in the cafes.
Customers play the games by purchasing Internet time. The cafes offer 24 games that operate like slot machines, where images are rolled around other images or numbers. If they match, the customer earns points redeemable for cash.
Those games have a cash limit of $5,000 for total winnings in one sitting. When a player wins cash, cafe attendants report the winnings to the federal and state governments, Pelletier said.
He added that when he began the businesses last year he was forthright about operating the sweepstakes games.
"On the business permit, I spelled it out for them: New England Internet café and sweepstakes," the councillor claims, saying it is important that the AG makes a determination on the legality of the 'sweepstakes' practice before launching prosecutions.
"I don't think I should be punished because the state has not made a determination one way or another,'' he said.
"How can I be penalized if the determination was not made? If it was made and I opened up and I ran it, then of course, I should get locked up and arrested, but I think it should be noted that I have not been arrested.''
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