Sweepstakes videogame operators and manufacturers have seen a mix of legal victories, defeats and challenges from Massachusetts to Florida in the weeks leading up to the year's end.
In Fall River, MA, city councilor Leo Pelletier entered "not guilty" pleas in Superior Court on Dec. 13 to gambling charges related to his Internet sweeps café business.
Pelletier, his wife and his business partner were indicated last October by a special grand jury. They ran Internet cafés in Fairhaven and Fall River through New England Internet Cafés LLC until the state banned the equipment earlier this year.
The Office of the State Attorney General said the locations were basically illegal slot machine parlors.
In South Carolina, a Dec. 15 court ruling in Georgetown County was hailed a victory for sweepstakes videogames by Hest Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of the games based in Texas.
Magistrate Isaac L. Pyatt of the Georgetown Magistrate Court provided an order, 2011-CV-221051092, finding that the Skyeward Bound Ranch Sweepstakes using Hest software is not gambling, nor does it violate South Carolina law. Pyatt's ruling included careful, sophisticated and apparently well-informed reasoning about gambling issues. | SEE STATEMENT
Hest president Chris Canard said he believes the ruling will be respected and followed statewide.
In Hillsborough County, FL, four companies have filed a complaint in federal court, requesting a temporary restraining order to prevent enforcement of a Dec. 7 ban on Internet sweepstakes games. Employing an argument first seen in North Carolina, an attorney for the plaintiffs contended that the ban violates the operators' free-speech rights under the U.S. constitution.
Local press outlets said that in the wake of the ban, dozens of sweepstakes cafes in the county have closed. Reporters quoted critics who claimed the affected sweeps operators simply moved to friendlier jurisdictions.