It’s All About the Games


..Pre-Reveal Games Scheduled To Go To Court In Florida..

Sanford, Florida — Three months after Florida’s legislation has voted out illegal gambling, law enforcement has shut down three online casino storefronts at the County of Hernando.

Sweepstakes Games Form New Identity

Sheriff Al Nienhuis reports several vendors are remodelling their software in order to circumvent the law that bans sweepstakes across the state.

Back in April, Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill that put internet cafes out of business. The new law which has took effect immediately right after the Governor approved it has shut down a total of 1,000 storefront operations in Florida.
Legislators have voted on the bill with haste after Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll has resigned from office following a charity gambling scam.



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Sweepstakes Industry Waiting For New Mexico Verdict


Sweepstakes Industry Waiting For New Mexico Verdict

The sweepstakes industry watch over the NM Supreme Court as it is set to review a verdict on a man who claims he is a legitimate businessman and not a gambling lord.

In 2008, Michael Vento, age 64 has lost his internet café business on a bust. The Gaming Control Board has seized a total of 21 computers in his shop and has charged him of running illegal online sweepstakes in the internet café.

Upon checking the Gaming Control Board’s regulation, Vento argues that a gambling place does not include establishments that offer sweepstakes promotion. He cited that it is more like Coca-Cola’s freebie or McDonald’s monopoly game when you purchase food, which is legal and not gambling.

Nonetheless, the following year, Vento was convicted of illegal gambling with fourth degree felony.

Vento made appeal to the Court of Appeals which in return ruled out that the gambling devices seized in the form of computers do not support enough evidence to convict him of illegal gambling. The Supreme Court has overthrown the verdict and accepts his case for reconsideration.

On the other hand, Assistant Attorney General Jacqueline R. Medina argued Vento’s business is a gambling den no matter how hard he tries to hide it in a form of an internet café.

Furthermore, Medina said the gimmick Vento use to run his business was nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the law.



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Legality Of Raids Come Into Question


Cora Sayre invests her weekend breaks at the dully lit Internet cafes that line suburban strip malls here.

The cafes provide Internet access, which Ms. Sayre and additional customers could make use of to view their e-mail or pay bills. Yet consumers like Ms. Sayre, 57 years old, aren’t there to simply browse the Internet. They play simulated slot-machine games in hopes of winning hundreds of dollars in rewards, in settings that resemble mini Las Vegas casino floors.


States are inveighing alleged sweepstakes cafes, which critics claim are just thinly disguised casinos spruced up as sweepstakes contests. Steve Eder has information on The News Hub.

“I won $ 160 on a 22 cent bet,” Ms. Sayre said, while getting ready to play at the new Win City cafe in Westlake, Ohio. “I’m a gambler at heart, so I think this is a great venue.”

Such Internet sweepstakes cafes have multiplied around the nation, thanks to dedicated patrons like Ms. Sayre. In current months, however, the cafes have actually come under siege from state and local authorities in a number of states, including Ohio, South Carolina, Michigan, Texas and North Carolina. Loads of cafes have been plundered and branded illegal gambling parlors. Some state lawmakers are attempting to outlaw such cafes or impose significant levies.

In their defense, the cafe owners state they are protected by laws regulating offers and sweepstakes that enable, for example, McDonald’s to provide prizes to clients. “The business model meets the letter of the law,” commented Chase Brooks, that along with partners operates about 25 cafes in Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida.

Ricky Hamed, whose relatives own Win City in Ohio, remarked that it is an excellent business that provides “owners a chance to pay their bills.”

In these Internet cafes, consumers receive “sweepstakes” entries as a promotion for every buck they invest on Internet time. The sweepstakes commonly entail points that are typically put on plastic swipe cards. The consumers can then play the simulated slot-machine games to check if they have gained prize money. Cafe managers generally provide “no purchase necessary” entries, that could gain payouts, and normally post the odds of winning.

The Sweepstakes Club in Parma Heights, Ohio, packs in about 50 players.

Doubters point out the cafes are making use of the sweepstakes to get around antigambling laws and regulations. They claim most of the customers don’t even utilize the Internet time, and similar to in a casino, patrons are induced to invest even more cash to get better chances to win payouts.

Mark Keel, the chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which has supported nearby police in raids in about a dozen counties that were responsible for the confiscation of about 250 terminals, points out the cafes are “ripe for corruption.” The cafes have minuscule, if any, oversight, unlike legal gambling operations, which are highly moderated, he commented.

The controversy is exceptionally hot in Ohio, where people will soon have the option of visiting 4 big casinos, authorized by citizens, or myriad Internet cafes, a couple of which stay open till the wee hours of the morning.

Irene Simmons, 70 years old, devotes afternoons at Cyber Oasis Internet Sweepstakes Cafe in Brook Park, Ohio, which is located in a strip mall near an auto-parts shop and a club. Ms. Simmons, that is on Social Security, plunks down about $ 20 a day at the cafe, plays the games and socializes with additional consumers. “It has become my world,” she pointed out, adding the cafes have a community feel which doesn’t exist in casinos.

A client strolls past a club in Brook Park, Ohio.

Daniel Gourash, an attorney for Cyber Oasis and other cafes, stated the venues aren’t necessarily against regulation. They just prefer lawmakers to “tell us what the rules are,” he stated.

With cafes popping up quickly throughout Ohio, though, the governor in June signed a yearlong suspension on new cafes and called for existing ones to register with the attorney general’s office. Almost 800 cafes registered, many more than the about 300 Attorney General Mike DeWine believed were in existence. “It is like the wild, wild West,” he stated. It’s a “fiction not to call it gambling.”

It is difficult to predict how sizable the industry has come to be. Gambling professionals say cafes 1st emerged numerous years ago, however their growth has become more rapid in the past year. In North Carolina, researchers estimate the market’s total annual sales in the state are in between $ 4.6 billion and $ 13 billion prior to payouts.

While laws differ from state to state, gambling is generally illegal unless specifically permitted in casinos or lotteries. There were 22 states with commercial casinos in 2011, according to the American Gaming Association.

A gamble is typically defined as happening when the following 3 aspects exist all at once, according to professionals: a factor to consider, such as a fee for entry; chance or good luck; and an award, such as a cash payout. Sweepstakes cafe operators say those 3 elements do not exist in their offerings.

782 — # of Internet sweepstakes cafes that enrolled with the state of Ohio this year

2 — # of legitimate casinos authorized and presently running in Ohio

Courts have provided varying viewpoints on the cafes, remarked Joseph Kelly, a business-law professor at SUNY College at Buffalo, including there are bans, criminal complaints or lawsuits pending in approximately 20 states.

In North Carolina, a state appeals court earlier this year decided that a statewide ban on sweepstakes cafes breached freedom-of-speech rights, a judgment now being appealed. Yet in the past month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the criminal convictions of 2 sweepstakes cafe marketers in Texas, stating that the argument that the sale of Internet time was the main part of the cafe business was “mere subterfuge.”

In Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason in May submitted a 70-count criminal indictment against 10 people and seven businesses that create and market the machinery made use of in some cafes, indicting them of making about $ 48 million in prohibited gambling profits since February 2008. All 17 parties pled not guilty.

He also threatened cafes in his county with prosecution if they didn’t cease and desist their sweepstakes affairs, requiring some to close down for around two weeks, until a judge offered a short-term restraining order that said they may resume. “I’m not some sort of antigambling zealot,” said Mr. Mason, that is appealing the decision. “It is just that this is illegal activity.”



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A Bloomington guy that desires a liquor license to open a video gambling “cafe” refused to acknowledge his work at another company that would possess the gambling machines, a preoccupation that might be suspect under Illinois legislation.

Larry Ehlers recognized himself Tuesday in front of Bloomington’s liquor commission as a “member” of EEK Enterprises LLC, a business looking to start “Jackpot Joe’s Cafe” at 503 N. Prospect, suite 200. The proposed company requires a liquor license to entitle state-regulated video gambling machines, which would be the business’ key livelihood, stated its exec manager Gerald Kanta Tuesday.

Kanta, of Weldon, has even approached the city of Clinton pertaining to a similar business there, however the city currently does not permit video gambling. The Clinton city council is expected to vote on Monday night on overturning the video gambling ban.

Larry Ehlers on EEK’s liquor license application, notes his occupation as regional supervisor for Prairie State Gaming, a business licensed as an operator. The agent possesses, services and maintains video gambling machines.

Under state regulation, operators and certified establishments– in this instance Jackpot Joe’s, if the city approves a liquor license and the state authorizes a gambling license– split 50-50 the after-tax incomes of video gambling machines.

The 2009 video gambling legislation even states that no agent “may give anything of value, including but not limited to a loan or financing arrangement, to a licensed establishment … as any incentive or inducement to locate video terminals in that establishment.” And the Illinois Gaming Board’s site says that a bar possessed by an operator “may not participate in video gaming.”

Gene O’Shea is the director of the self-exclusion program at the Illinois Gaming Board. The media contact for video gambling concerns, O’Shea said the board has not been confronted yet with the inquiry of whether a staff member of an operator is permitted to be part of a qualified business. “The situation that you’re talking about has not happened before,” he pointed out, adding that the board would completely vet any establishment seeking a video gambling permit. “Our people would look at everything.”

Whether or not the partnership is permitted under the legislation, gambling opponent and executive director of the Springfield-based Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems Anita Bedell said it does not look excellent. “If you’re working for someone and they’re on their payroll, that’s something of value,” she pointed out.

Questioned about his partnership with both an entity looking to develop into a qualified video gambling establishment and an operator, Larry Ehlers on Friday said he personally was not an operator. Asked if he was utilized by an operator, he responded, “I could be” and advised the Prairie State Gaming site that notes him as a local manager “could” be out of date. The Pantagraph reached Larry Ehlers with a phone number noted on Prairie State Gaming’s site, and EEK’s liquor license application states he’s been used at Prairie State Gaming for 2 months.

Bloomington citizen Daniel Ehlers additionally appears on EEK’s liquor license application as an associate of the LLC. He even specifies his occupation as local supervisor of Prairie State Gaming, additionally for two months. Daniel Ehlers did not return text messages left at his business telephone number Friday; it is not known if Larry Ehlers and Daniel Ehlers are connected.

Kristen Turner, main financial officer of Prairie State Gaming, additionally did not return voicemails left Friday.



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Sweepstakes seem to have first amendment protection


Sweepstakes seem to have first amendment protection

Some of the operations, such as those that call themselves “sweepstakes” are entirely unregulated. They are not inspected, licensed or in any other way supervised by the state.

This week Seabrook issued a cease-and-desist order to one of these operations, 3D Business Center, for allegedly misrepresenting itself as a “business center fax, photocopy and Internet center,” town officials said.

The owner of the Seabrook business opened a similar operation at Portsmouth’s Heritage Common on Lafayette Road this week, complete with 40 sweepstakes terminals.

“They are not illegal because of a nuance in the law that allows them,” said Paul M. Kelley, director of the New Hampshire Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission, who estimated there are 14 other similar businesses in the state. “My concern with them is the general public is not protected adequately. The public has a perception they’re regulated like charitable gaming establishments, and they are not.”

Whether charitable gaming is adequately regulated in New Hampshire is a story for another day. However, at least with charitable gaming the state has three inspectors, three auditors, runs background checks on gaming operators, receives a licensing fee and charities are supposed to receive 35 percent of the take. None of those protections or public good apply to these sweepstakes operations.

How much money can they make? Kelley said the Elks Lodge in Nashua has five machines and during a five-month period, after payouts, made more than $70,000. That’s $14,000 a machine in that five-month period or $2,800 per machine, per month. If the Portsmouth operation has 40 machines, that would net the owner $112,000 a month or $1,344,000 per year. No wonder these operations are spreading like wildfire across the state and nation. Kelley said it’s likely that operations open to the public make far more money than a fraternal organization such as the Elks.

Fortunately, the Legislature has gotten wind of the new sweepstakes craze and is looking to either regulate them or close them down.

“I have no doubt that this is gambling,” said state Sen. Bob Odell.

The Senate on Thursday added language to a gaming bill that would expand the definition of a gambling machine to include sweepstakes terminals. The House is also expected to approve the sweepstakes language.

Making this law stick may be a tougher battle than it would seem. Other states have tried and failed to shut down sweepstakes operations, which argue they are no different than games routinely run by McDonald’s and Publishers Clearing House.


New Hampshire is at a crossroads with gambling. Right now we have the worst of both worlds: A growing number of unregulated sweepstakes operations and under-regulated charitable gaming with very little public benefit. The status quo isn’t working for anyone but the game operators.

When Gov. John Lynch promised to veto efforts to expand gambling in the state, he said one thing he had been told by governors in other states is that you cannot allow gambling without a strong regulatory structure in place. New Hampshire’s laws are not ready for gambling. Its regulators are understaffed and underfunded and its enforcement abilities are feeble at best.

Seacoast Media Group has long opposed gambling, largely out of fear of the corruption it would bring to the state. And we continue to believe gambling is not the New Hampshire way. But right now we are like the woman who tells herself she’s only a little pregnant. As a state we need to either ban all gambling or put a robust regulatory structure in place that will guarantee the maximum public good comes from this risky business.

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