|DeWine also met in Columbus with law enforcement to discuss cracking down on internet cafes and sweepstakes stores across the state.|
Release from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine:
(CLEVELAND)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty today announced that search warrants were served at six Cuyahoga County Internet Cafes and the corporate offices of a major sweepstakes technology provider in New Jersey. The search warrants are part of investigations into whether illegal gambling is taking place at the sweepstakes establishments.
"Today's search warrants will gather evidence that we expect will build a case that illegal gambling has been taking place at these establishments," said Attorney General DeWine. "These establishments advertised themselves like casinos, provided patrons with slot-machine-like games, and yet thought they could conduct illegal gambling simply by calling it a "sweepstakes.'"
"All of these law enforcement agencies have teamed together to put a stop to the plague of illegal Internet casinos that are ripping off the elderly and vulnerable with their unregulated slot machines and funneling the millions they are raking in to their out of state and overseas operators. They and their lobbyists in Ohio, Florida, and New Jersey have been laughing all the way to the bank. Well, the party is over and we plan on walking them right into jail," said Prosecutor McGinty.
Warrants were served at:
- Crystal Sports Bar, 3357 Fulton Road, Cleveland
- Collinwood Sweepstakes Café, 15624 Lakeshore Blvd., Cleveland
- Emerald Isle, 22574 Lakeshore Blvd., Euclid
- Infinity 2, 30670 Detroit Rd., Westlake
- Loco Leprechaun, 24545 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake
- Players Club, 26193 Euclid Avenue, Euclid
Authorities in New Jersey also served search warrants at the residence of Phillip Cornick in Ocean County, New Jersey, and at the corporate offices of VS2 Worldwide Communications and P&E Technologies in Monmouth County, New Jersey. VS2 provided sweepstakes software, equipment, and servers to the establishments in Cuyahoga County.
Today's sweep is a collaborative investigation by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office working in connection with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), Ohio Investigative Unit of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, Parma Heights Police Department, and several law enforcement agencies in the state of New Jersey.
Earlier in the day, Attorney General DeWine held a briefing with law enforcement officials from across Ohio on investigating and prosecuting illegal gambling cases involving internet cafes and sweepstakes establishments. DeWine advised law enforcement on the recent case in the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals, Cleveland v. Thorne, which clearly states that the sweepstakes model run at internet cafes is indeed illegal gambling.
"The decision in the Court of Appeals gives us clear guidance regarding so-called "sweepstakes,'" said DeWine. "The court described these operations as a 'patently obvious gambling scheme,' 'a system devised to skirt the law,' and an 'attempt to legitimize illegal gambling.' I concur with the Court's judgment and will provide guidance to local law enforcement as they build cases against these establishments."
While DeWine is supporting the local law enforcement investigations, DeWine is still calling for the passage of HB 7 to establish regulations upon sweepstakes establishments.
"Ultimately, Ohio still needs legislation to support these law enforcement efforts to enforce Ohio gambling laws," DeWine said. "Absent legislation, the cost of these enforcement actions will bear a heavy burden on local sheriffs, police, and prosecutors as these cases will play out in court. It will be tough, but we will fight them one case at a time across the state."
DeWine announced that the Internet Gaming Advisory unit within his office can help local law enforcement and prosecutors' offices with staff experts in investigating and prosecuting internet sweepstakes cases. Officials seeking assistance can call 1-855-BCI-OHIO.