CLEVELAND: Businesses that offer games that function like slot machines with cash prizes are being ordered to shut down in the state’s largest county in a sweeping crackdown on the operations.
Ten people and seven businesses have been indicted, including the owners of a New Jersey-based company that distributes a software system to the Internet sweepstakes cafes.
There is little regulation over the cafes. Ohio lawmakers last week approved a bill that would put a one-year moratorium on new cafes where customers can win cash or merchandise. Customers buy Internet time or phone cards and use them to bet points on computers loaded with games such as poker or slots.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Bill Mason said Wednesday that the businesses are really illegal gambling operations. He sent letters to all 50 cafe operators in the county ordering them to shutter their businesses immediately, The Plain Dealer reported.
“You have to pay to play, players have no influence over the outcome of the game and the player receives a prize or something of value when they complete it,” he said.
Those charged include three owners of VS2 Worldwide Communications, a supplier of the game system to 18 cafes in the Cleveland area. The others indicted distributed the equipment for the company. Charges include engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, illegal gambling and money laundering.
Authorities said company and individual bank accounts were being used to launder cash being generated by the machines.
A call seeking comment was left Thursday at the company’s office in Farmingdale, N.J.
There are no plans to charge any of the operators of the cafes, Mason said.