Mass. AG suing Internet cafe
BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a lawsuit on Friday against a Chicopee Internet cafe for allegedly violating the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act by running an illegal gambling operation.
Express Internet Center and Anthony Ardolino, the cafe's owner, allegedly promoted illegal gambling through electronic slot machine games, including Snake Eyes, Lucky's Loot and Wheel Deal, in direct violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and related laws enacted in June.
Express Internet Center allegedly sells Internet time but allegedly profits by providing access to computer games with a casino-style interface. During every transaction, the cafe allegedly gives patrons electronic points that the patrons use to play the games on the computers at the cafe.
Customers play the games in hopes to win more electronic points that can allegedly be turned back in for cash like casino chips. The sale of computer services and internet time are allegedly a front designed to avoid state laws prohibiting business and individuals from accepting or soliciting payment for the chance to win a prize.
Express Internet Center allegedly looks and operates similarly to a casino with dim lighting, free food and free drinks. The cafe gives free lunch each week on Wednesday through Sunday and gives free pizza to players two days a week. There are 48 individual computer terminals in the cafe with leather armchairs separated by partitions.
The lawsuit seeks to shut down the cafe and to recover fees, penalties and unlawful profits from the defendants.
After the lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, the defendants agreed on Thursday to enter into a stipulated temporary restraining order prohibiting them from dissipating assets outside of the typical course of business and requiring them to preserve relevant documents.
"We are concerned about companies that pose as legitimate businesses but are no more than illegal operations," Coakley said. "We allege that this cafe is an unlawful establishment, profiting from unregulated and illegal gambling games with no posted odds, minimum odds, or guarantee of payouts for patrons. Today's action is just the latest step toward holding accountable businesses that mislead customers and operate in violation of the law."