Sunday November 13, 2011 : MASSACHUSETTS CLAMPDOWN ON INTERNET CAFE GAMBLING
Third operator prosecuted by state AG
Internet cafe owners be warned; the Massachusetts state Attorney General is on the trail of "sweepstakes style" gambling services offered in cyber cafes.
This week Westfield operators Steven Sheldon (48) and his business partner, Steven Megliola (52) became the latest to be indicted on illegal gambling charges in a Massachusetts clampdown orchestrated by state AG Martha Coakley. Their cyber cafe is now closed following a police action in March which preceded the indictment this week.
“This cyber café was nothing more than an illegal, unregulated slot parlor with no protections for consumers,” said Coakley in a statement. “We allege that these defendants operated a gambling facility in direct violation of existing Massachusetts law.”
Sheldon was also indicted for allowing lotteries in a building and the sale and advertising of lottery tickets.
The indictments follow similar charges against the owners of two Internet cafés in Fall River and Fairhaven earlier this year.
In one of these cases the cost was especially high for the defendant; Leo Pelletier lost his bid for re-election as a city councillor, and blames the prosecution for his defeat and the loss of his internet cafe business.
Pelletier continues to argue that his activities were legal, and it is now in the hands of the courts to make the final decision.
In a press release, Attorney General Coakley’s office said it has “active and ongoing” investigations into internet cafes across the state.
“We are doing this one-by-one. Each one is a question of fact,” Coakley told The Republican newspaper.
Meanwhile, the politicians have become involved in the issue, with Rep. Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, a Springfield Democrat, submitting a bill to specifically ban cyber cafes that offer gambling services.
Coakley-Rivera said the ban should be approved, considering state legislators are close to final approval of a separate bill that would authorise three land casino resorts in Massachusetts. She said the cafes could take business that otherwise would go to casinos.