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Issue Date: Vol. 51, No. 4, April 2011, Posted On: 4/8/2011

Mass. AG Bans Sweepstakes Viddies

Marcus Webb
sweepstakes video game, Internet cafe, Martha Coakley, Internet sweepstakes video games, illegal gambling

BOSTON -- Attorney General Martha Coakley announced emergency regulations on April 7 that effectively classified all Internet sweepstakes videogames with cash prizes as illegal gambling.

Technically the new regulations were filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office but officials in Coakley's office said criminal investigations of sweeps operators are underway.

The ban specifically cited "cyber cafés" in which Internet sweepstakes often feature casino-style gameplay in the reveal phase -- even though the game does not determine sweepstakes winners.

The ban also cited "phone card" terminals, a reference to vending machines typically found in convenience stores that sell phone cards and enter buyers in a sweepstakes with cash prize.

Coakley said sweepstakes videos are "cyber scams with no posted odds, minimum odds, or guarantee of payouts."

Sweepstakes videogames in Internet cafés have appeared in numerous cities across Massachusetts in recent months. In some cases, police have raided them; in others police have tolerated them and in still others, city councils have licensed them. In the city of Fall River, a member of the city council operates two cyber cafés.

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