Raids and statewide bans from Florida to Maine have dampened the market in mid-July for Internet-based sweepstakes videogames with cash prizes.
On June 14, sheriffs in Pinellas County, FL, raided three Internet sweepstakes cafés. About $20,000 and 198 computers were seized. No arrests were made, but Sheriff Jim Coats predicted they would follow after the district attorney reviewed the evidence.
Last May, Coats warned Internet sweepstakes operators that he considered the games illegal gambling devices under Florida law. But one of the operators, Jeaneen Crisante, whose store was raided, has already defeated gambling charges in state court for running similar games in another Sunshine State jurisdiction. | SEE STORY
July 14 also saw police and federal agents raid two sweeps game operations in South Richmond, VA. Earlier this year, the state's General Assembly amended Virginia gambling statutes to explicitly outlaw Internet sweepstakes; that law went into effect on July 1. | SEE STORY
On July 15, one day after the Pinellas County raids, similar raids followed against several Internet cafés running sweepstakes games in Jackson County, FL. One targeted location was a gameroom inside a bowling center. The sweepstakes games there were run by an independent operator, Specialized Games LLC.
Specialized Games had previously filed suit against the state attorney and the local sheriff in June, seeking a temporary injunction to head off efforts by officials to shut down the operation.
Also on July 15, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed legislation to ban "cyber cafés" throughout the state. The law would appear somewhat redundant since state Attorney General Martha Coakley said on June 24 that her office had made permanent a set of regulations to ban Internet cafés and phone card venders with sweepstakes games. | SEE STORY