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Cleveland Men Guilty in Internet Sweepstakes Trial

Cleveland (Internet Sweepstakes shops not pictured).

A Cleveland, Ohio jury delivered guilty charges against six men charged with running an illegal Internet Sweepstakes operation.

The charges included gambling, operating a gambling house and possession of criminal tools. (In this case the computers used by the businesses were considered criminal tools.) The men could receive as much as six months in jail on each charge when they are sentenced next month.

Internet Sweepstakes 101

Internet Sweepstakes cafes are a uniquely American phenomenon that critics say are thinly veiled casinos. Here’s how they work.

Customers buy Internet time at the cafe and are awarded 100 “sweepstakes entries” for every dollar they spend. The sweepstakes winnings are predetermined but players can choose how many entries they want revealed by wagering entries on computer games, including poker, slot machines, and touchscreen games like, “Pop the Balloon.” But the player’s sweepstakes winnings are unaffected by the outcome of the games.

Most readers will likely notice the many similarities between Internet Sweepstakes and traditional gambling. But in the eyes of the law, there are some important differences that allow the practice to flourish. Most importantly, the outcome of the sweepstakes is predetermined, which takes it out of the gambling world.

Pros and Cons of Internet Sweepstakes

Internet sweepstakes critics claim that the cafes are not only casinos, but that they prey on low income neighborhoods. Whether the cafes exist primarily in low income neighborhoods to take advantage of desperate people or low rents is a matter of opinion.

Some U.S. states are looking to regulate the cafes, while others, like Ohio, are looking to ban them outright. It should also be noted that the first legal, land-based casino in Ohio is opening up next month.

Supporters of Internet Sweepstakes cafes see them as good harmless fun. Multiple articles used to research this piece compared the sweepstakes to the popular Monopoly game pieces offered at McDonalds.

Do you consider Internet Sweepstakes cafes to be real gambling? Let us know your opinion on our Online Gaming Laws and Regulations Forum.