Florida Gamers Make Move To Keep Business

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HERNANDO COUNTY – More than 30 lucrative businesses abruptly shut down as state lawmakers boardpassed a bill banning internet gaming in the county but fast thinking operators simply changed the type of the game to keep some businesses open.
As per business owner and operators, they would rather close than face criminal charges. While some remained opened, they were limited to giving gift prizes to 75 cents only per game and were prohibited to giving away gift cards as prizes.
The new bill came in the wake of the investigation on the charity scam with Allied Veterans of the World which also pushed the resignation of Florida Gov. Jennifer Carroll.
According to Terry Kasberg of Spinners Sweepstakes Cafe in Spring Hill, the new bills with the new set of rules kill off the business.
Kasberg also claimed that the new bill was nothing but a political attempt influenced by big gambling industries to force out small entrepreneurs like him.
“The law put a lot of people out of work,” expressed Kasberg on a pro-sweepstakes rally.
get our appKasberg, together with other sweepstakes owners and operators said they will go on fighting to pressure state lawmakers to amend the law.

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After the Fall of Sweepstakes Enters a New Game

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..New License, New Game, Same Profit..(Almost)

 
Columbus – Internet-sweepstakes cafes have long had operations that raised suspicions of illegal gambling. Ohio now has a law which makes clear which activities are legal and illegal in these cafes, and we will not hesitate to enforce the law, says Attorney General Mike DeWine.
boardDeWine has issued the statement almost an hour later after the Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs, the organization that backs up internet cafes in Ohio, declared that they are resigning from their campaign to put the issue of internet sweepstake into vote on the upcoming general election.
Initially, the Committee was granted 10 more days to continue their campaign against House Bill 7, when they fall short of about 71, 000 valid signatures from 44 different states in Ohio. Secretary Jon Husted has set the deadline to October 3.
The Attorney General announced he will be sending letter to 88 sheriffs and 700 internet café operators across the state for the enforcement of the law.
Furthermore, DeWine says they will keep an eye on it.
The law was first slated to take effect on September 5; however, it took effect at exactly 12:01am on October 4th.opening soon
Director Robert Cornwell of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association vows to work closely with the Attorney General’s office to impose the new law.
According to Cornwell, internet cafes would likely fold up and move instead to other states.
Although HB 7 does not impose an outright ban on casino style internet cafes, it is said that it will be difficult to stay in business with the $10 limit on prizes and awards.
HB 7 also requires all internet cafes to file monthly reports to the Attorney General’s office and obtain a certificate of registration before starting an internet café business.
The enforcement of Hb 7 will make the state of Ohio lose millions of revenues and thousands of jobs, states the Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs.
On the other hand, the Ohioans Against Illegal Gambling Representative Carlo LoParo says the push to halt the new law run short of votes because the people of Ohio refuse to aid in a criminal enterprise.

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Ohio Lottery Slaps Sweepstakes Industry In Face With New Electronic Raffle Game

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..Months After the Sweepstakes Regulation, Ohio Lottery Launches New Electronic Raffle Game..

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Ohio Lottery have launched gaming machines that will be placed in veterans posts and fraternal lodges, coming to the rescue of groups whose devices had been ruled illegal.

Electronic Raffle Machines To Be Place in Veterans and Fraternal Locations

The Lottery of Ohio are being heavily criticized for lobbying for the removal of internet cafes and after assisting with the push on the ban with internet cafes.

The lottery announced Monday that it will distribute over 1000 machines statewide, with a maximum of five per location. The new state ran games will display tickets that let buyers know instantly whether they have won and will not function like slot machines and video lottery.

Ohio Lottery will share 85 percent of the money generated by the machines, while the remaining 15 percent will go to the location, which funnels its profits to public schools. The first machines should be available in around six months, lottery spokeswoman Danielle Frizzi-Babb said.

Veterans and fraternal groups have been pushing for legalization of  electronic raffle machines that they said were necessary to their economic survival. Attorney General Mike DeWine ordered the groups to get rid of what he called illegal slots last week.

Dewine Pushed To Rid the State with Any Competition When he Regulated Internet Cafes

Gov. John Kasich’s office asked the lottery to “come up with a viable option” for veterans and fraternal organizations that had been under pressure from DeWine for months. Post and lodges that want to take advantage of the offer must remove any machines that the Dewine has deemed illegal.

Bill Seagraves, president of  The Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition learned of the new alternative Monday . He said the coalition was willing to consider the plan but wanted to study it.

“We would have felt a lot better if they had come to us first,” he said.

Veterans and fraternal groups had over 650 raffle machines in less than 150 locations, said Seagraves, who also is director of Veterans of Foreign Wars Ohio Charities. The coalition had an agreement with a supplier, the Ohio-based Charitable Management and Capital Group, to let lodges and posts split the gambling proceeds 50-50 for the first 15 months of a machine’s operation, and then the split fell to 60/40.

Ohio lawmakers cracked down on slotslike

New Raffle Games Launched Early To Combat New Games Launched After Sweepstakes Ban (BanBuster Games)

games at Internet cafes by prohibiting cash payouts and capping the value of other prizes at $10. The law went into effect early this month after a petition drive failed to get enough signatures to place the measure on the statewide ballot.

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Signs of Casino Money Influence Seen In Internet Sweepstakes Regulation

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WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio – On the first week of  new state regulations, two Internet cafes on Chardon Road took markedly different tacks.

The Sweepstakes Club, which was open earlier last week, according to a customer, was locked late Friday morning. A sign on the door said the cafe was “closed for an upgrade” and will resume operation Monday. The upgrade seems to be a change of tactic on how the games operate that is supposed to keep the cafes open.

The Sweepstakes Club

The Cyber Playground, on the other hand, had more than 30 patrons playing computer games. But customers had to sign a new form advising them that they were playing at their own risk.”They could shut us down at any time,” a female employee told several who were waiting in line.

The cafes can remain open under a law that took effect at midnight, opponents said they had failed get enough signatures for a statewide vote on the statute and its new restrictions.

The owners are prohibited from awarding cash jackpots or prizes worth more than $10, rules that threaten to close an industry that casino operators and other critics say is a facade for illegal gambling (although gambling and sweepstakes aren’t technically the same) Another employee at the Cyber Playground said the cafe was paying customers the value of “whatever is on their cards.”

Attorney Daniel Gourash at one time represented  more than 20 cafes in Cuyahoga County, where court cases and raids waged by Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty and state agents gradually forced more than 50 to fold. A push many blame on “big casino money”

Big Casino Money Blamed On Anti-Sweepstakes Push In Ohio

Gourash said Friday that he expects to see a lawsuit filed on constitutional grounds, though he declined to comment on whether he would handle the filing. He said arguments could allege that state legislators violated home-rule powers in cities that had licensed cafes and charged them fees, or illegal “taking” of enterprises that legislators had long tolerated. The on-going consensus points toward a violation of the first amendment.

Cafe operators claim they run legitimate businesses, selling Internet or phone time and using sweepstakes games for marketing.

Purchase A Product Like A Big Mac and You Receive Free Entries In A Sweepstakes

Critics say customers have no interest in the products, just playing games for cash. Café operators point out that the internet is used to access the games.

Michelle Allen of Cleveland pulled up in front of the Sweepstakes Club on Friday morning and learned she was shut out of a place she has visited almost daily. Allen said she recently won $1,600 in a two-day period but wouldn’t really mind if the new law sends all the cafes packing.

“It probably wouldn’t affect me much,” said Allen, 31. “It’s more of a fun thing. I come to relax, actually.”

Unable to get into the Sweepstakes Club, Ron, a 63-year-old retiree who wouldn’t give his last name, headed to the Cyber Playground with his wife. The Cleveland Heights man said he caps his day’s spending at $20 and would not be bothered if the cafes disappear.

“I’m all for it,” he said without hesitation. “It can be habit forming. It’s like any other addiction.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine, a leading opponent of the cafes, pledged Thursday to watch for cafes that break the law. Spokesman Daniel Tierney said enforcement will start by sending cafes letters outlining “expectations” and notifying county prosecutors which cafes have registered with the attorney general, as required.

Tierney said people who believe cafes are violating the law can call local authorities or contact the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 1-855-BCIOHIO.

The owners of VS2 Worldwide Communications, a New Jersey company that supplies software to the Cyber Playground and many other Internet cafes in Ohio, are to be sentenced Thursday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, but the terms of pleas they entered are sealed until then. They were indicted on charges of racketeering, money laundering, possession of criminal tools and gambling in connection with use of their products.

To head off raids in Lake County, Cyber Playground and two other cafes sued DeWine, county Prosecutor Charles Coulson and three cities’ prosecutors in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The judge did not grant the injunction that was sought but indicated that authorities should delay any action they might be considering.

Dominic Vitantonio, an attorney who filed the suit, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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Latest developments in the trial of Kelly Mathis

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Sanford, Fla., October 5, 2013 – The defense team for Kelly Mathis presented evidence last week that confirmed Allied Veteran’s Internet Cafe business was legal. After the State rested unexpectedly on Monday September 30, 2013,

New Evidence Reveal To Jury

Judge Kenneth Lester agreed with defense lawyers and dismissed over 50 money laundering counts that had been filed against Mathis. Over 100 counts remain. The defense then started its case on October 2, 2013.

Lead defense attorney Mitch Stone began by presenting evidence of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services position that the Internet cafe sweepstakes promotion business model was legal. A training program created in 2007 confirmed exactly what Mathis had later determined after researching the law for his client, Allied Veterans. The defense then presented a series of witnesses who agreed with Mathis.
Retired City of Jacksonville Office of General Counsel supervisor Steve Rohan testified the Internet Cafes managed by the non-profit Allied Veterans of the World, Inc. and Affiliates were operating within state law. He testified Mathis met with him and other city lawyers. Rohan testified he could have rejected Mathis’Pre-Reveal-Gold legal analysis if he had read the law differently. However, he and other lawyers agreed with Mathis. The jury was only permitted to hear part of his testimony due to the court prohibiting evidence of local regulatory ordinances and recent state legislation concerning the Internet cafe sweepstakes game promotion business model.
Former Assistant State Attorney Daniel Leising, who headed up a law enforcement task force concerning the Internet Cafe businesses in Volusia County in 2008, also testified that Mathis met with him and offered information about his client and the law. Leising confirmed he and other lawyers and law enforcement officers could have rejected Mathis’ legal conclusions but didn’t. In the end, no arrests of any Internet cafe owners resulted from that task force investigation implying that the State Attorney’s Office and Volusia County law enforcement officers agreed the Allied Veterans business model was legal.
Current State Attorney Supervisor Karen Foxman also testified that when she was in private practice her firm represented Allied Veterans and she paired with Mathis to meet with three separate prosecutors to discuss the law and facts regarding the Internet cafe sweepstakes promotion. She confirmed that the reason for the meetings was to provide information to prosecutors and law enforcement. Again no arrests resulted implying Mathis’ analysis of the law was accurate.
Additional witnesses for the defense included a current Jacksonville Sheriff’s office sergeant and the compliance officer for the City of Jacksonville who also confirmed that prosecutors, city lawyers, public officials and politicians agreed the Internet cafe sweepstakes game promotion was legal. Again, the testimony they provided to the jury was limited by the court.
The defense ended the week by presenting a computer software expert who ran an independent lab that tested the software used by Allied Veterans four separate times from 2008 to 2011. Nick Farley testified the software was designed to sell internet time and offer a free sweepstakes game

Computer Lab Tested Sweepstakes Promotion Software

promotion to customers. Farley confirmed the screen images that simulated casino style games did not make a difference as to how the software worked. Farley also testified that the State has never had an expert test the software and never challenged his findings scientifically. The State also never spoke to him before deciding to arrest 57 people based on allegations the computers were running illegal slot machine software.

Wesley Stayte, a computer software developer, also confirmed this was sweepstakes software and that the images did not mean the computers were running slot machine software. Stayte confirmed that the sweepstakes software would be illegal if used in real Las Vegas style slot machines. He confirmed the software for Allied Veterans was designed to provide predetermined entries from finite pools and not randomly generated outcomes, an important distinction under the law.
Defense attorney Lee Lockett presented witnesses who confirmed Mathis would never break the law. Mathis served as president of the Jacksonville Bar Association in 2006, just months before taking on Allied Veterans as a client. Such a position is a major achievement reserved for lawyers who are highly respected for their integrity and legal abilities. Mathis was described by witnesses as a law abiding citizen who would never risk his family or professional reputation for any amount of money.
Stone said the evidence presented by the defense is based on the truth and the truth confirms Mathis did nothing illegal. Stone also said the evidence verifies Mathis was practicing law for a client and was not a business owner or partner which also proves that the State should never have charged Mathis.
The case is scheduled to conclude next week.

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Internet Cafe Signature Count Falls Short ; Issue Headed To Courts

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COLUMBUS – The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs hoped to overturn a new state law aimed at closing sweepstakes parlors has failed in its efforts to allow voters to make the choice on a ballot.

Referendum Falls Short

The group announced Thursday evening that they were unable to collect the 71,000-plus additional signatures needed to qualify for the ballot and decided not to submit new petitions to the secretary of state’s office.

The group, however,  left open the possibility of lawsuits to challenge House Bill 7, which banned cash payouts, capped prize values at $10, required increased registration and oversight of sweepstakes parlors and likely will lead to the closing of most of the storefronts. Lawsuits in other states have been successful when new laws have been implemented to curb the businesses.

“With respect to the ability of Ohioans to continue to patronize Internet sweepstakes cafes in Ohio, legal challenges to HB 7 are under consideration by industry attorneys,” the group said, adding, “As of today, there is nothing to announce in that regard.”

No Vote For Cafe Supporters

Cafe owners say claim their businesses are operating legally, selling products (often phone cards) or services (often Internet access) to customers and compare them to someone buying a burger at Mcdonald’s and entering the Monopoly sweepstakes.

Lawmakers say HB-7 was needed because sweepstakes parlors were skirting state law and offering unregulated gambling, with parlors often becoming havens for other illegal activities.

The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs began their referendum effort to overturn the legislation, and parlor owners submitted

Purchase A Cheeseburger and Get a Chance To Enter a Sweepstakes

more than 433,000 signatures to the secretary of state in September.In which,  160,000 of those names were confirmed as valid by county elections officials, short of the 231,000 that was needed to qualify for the ballot.

“The committee is grateful to the tens of thousands of voters who signed petitions in solidarity with the 80 percent of Ohioans who oppose banning Internet sweepstakes cafes,” the group said in a released statement. “Sadly, as a result of House Bill 7 going into effect, Ohio will lose thousands of jobs and state and local governments will lose millions of dollars in tax revenues.”

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Signatures To Save Sweepstakes Cafes Fall Short (HB-7) Becomes Law At Midnight

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Signatures To Save Sweepstakes Cafes Fall Short (HB-7) Becomes Law At Midnight

The committee to save Ohio jobs have failed to turn in the required amount of signatures. House Bill 7 will become law at midnight.

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