Contact: Lawrence Cook
January 31, 2014
MERIDEN, CT—“Sweepstakes Cafes,” illegal casinos masquerading as legitimate businesses, have been run out of states around the country. In the past year, however, they have been setting up shop in communities around Connecticut. Senator Danté Bartolomeo (D-Meriden) has announced plans to shut the doors on these seedy establishments that are estimated to profit more than $10 billion a year in illicit funds. This week she filed proposed legislation to make it clear that sweepstakes cafes are not legal and not welcome in Connecticut.
“These sweepstakes cafes are like a cancer spreading throughout our communities, taking advantage of seniors and others lured in by the false promise of easy money,” said Senator Danté Bartolomeo. “In states where action was not taken quickly, these illegal casinos multiplied by the hundreds, exploiting thousands of people. Ohio was slow to act, and by the time legislation was passed, there were over 820 of these parlors across the state. It is imperative that Connecticut takes a stand today and let the operators of these cafes know they are not welcome in here. My legislation will further codify what I already believe to be true: sweepstakes cafes are illegal casinos, offering nothing more than slot machines disguised as computers.”
“Sweepstakes cafes are a relatively recent development in Connecticut, but they have a very sordid track record in other states. Gambling is an operation that we take very seriously here in Connecticut, and these types of operations masquerade as something they are not in order to avoid proper oversight,” said state Senator Joan V. Hartley (D-Waterbury), who is Senate Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. “This is obviously an issue that we need to address immediately. A lot of vulnerable populations—especially the elderly and minors—are targeted by these illegal operations. I can promise you definitive legislation to address this problem before the end of the session.”
“These operations try to skirt the laws by disguising what is truly gambling as something else. It is evident that there is truly a lack of consumer protections in these operations,” said Mary Drexler, Executive Director of the CT Council on Problem Gambling. “These operations appear to be profiting from unregulated and illegal gambling games with no posted odds, minimum odds or guarantees of payouts to consumers.”
Sweepstakes cafes sell internet time or other services to customers, who are in exchange given access to casino-style games with the promise of a chance to win cash prizes. The “sweepstakes” is the primary source of business in these shady establishments. Patrons participating in the cafes are often seniors and are being exploited by a dangerous business with no regulation and no guarantee that their winnings will ever be paid out. One player at a parlor in North Carolina “won” over $100,000, but ownership refused to pay out.
This kind of cheating and unethical behavior is prevented in Connecticut by regulated gaming through the compact with sovereign Native American tribes. Without this kind of regulation, there are no consumer protection safeguards in place, tax money is siphoned away from the state, and residents are put at risk. The deep-pocketed ownership of these gaming dens attempt to skirt state gambling laws by claiming to not offer legally defined gaming. Courts and legislative bodies across the country have determined that this is gambling. The National Indian Gaming Commission, a federally regulated body, has ruled that sweepstakes cafés are offering Class 3 Gaming, violating the state compacts, and obligating Connecticut to shut the doors on these illegal operations.
Hartford, CT 06106-1591
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