Ohio Cracks Down on Internet Sweepstake Cafes as “Mini-Casinos”


Ohio officials launched a salvo against Internet sweepstakes cafes yesterday, seizing more than 200 terminals and bank records from six Cleveland-area businesses and documents at the New Jersey headquarters of a sweepstakes-software provider, reports the Columbus Dispatch. The raids involving more than a half-dozen law-enforcement agencies came hours after Attorney General Mike DeWine told about 200 county prosecutors, sheriffs and police chiefs that he wants to help them pursue illegal gambling at 794 Internet cafes throughout the state.

DeWine said he doesn't buy the argument that Internet cafes are businesses legally selling phone cards and Internet time. “We're not that stupid,” he told law-enforcement officials at the Columbus Police Training Academy. He insisted that the sweepstakes cafes — which he called “mini-casinos” — are illegal and should be shut down “once and for all.” He has formed a 19-member Internet Gaming Advisory unit in his office to “help investigate this illegal activity in this state.” At the cafes, patrons can buy a phone card or Internet time in exchange for playing casino-style computer games. Winners are paid off in cash, while the losers retain a usable phone card, cafe supporters say.

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