Action taken against Mass. Internet cafe
BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Tuesday that the owner of a Chicopee Internet cafe who allegedly offered illegal casino-style computer games must preserve all his assets and documents.
Anthony Ardolino, the owner of Express Internet Center, allegedly offered games such as Snake Eyes, Lucky's Loot and Wheel Deal, promoting illegal gambling in direct violation of the state's Gambling Regulations and Consumer Protection Act.
A preliminary injunction against Ardolino was issued on June 19 ordering the cafe owner to preserve all his assets and documents.
A separate and similar preliminary injunction was issued on May 30 against Express Internet Center, the corporate defendant. Coakley's lawsuit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court on May 1.
"Our lawsuit alleges 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," Coakley said. "This preliminary injunction ensures that those responsible are unable to destroy any record of their wrongdoing or conceal or transfer unfair profits that were gained illegally."
Both preliminary injunctions require that Ardolino and Express Internet Center preserve relevant documents and cease the dissipation of assets except under limited circumstances.
In issuing the injunctions, Suffolk Superior Judge Frances A. McIntyre found that if the lawsuit proceeds to trial, Coakley's office is likely to prove that the defendants violated the Massachusetts Lottery Statute and the Consumer Protection Act. The statute of gambling regulations was enacted in June 2011.
Express Internet Center purports to sell Internet time but allegedly profits by providing access to casino-style computer gambling games.
The complaint alleges that Express Internet Center operates and looks similar to an actual casino. The cafe provides free food and drink, offering free lunch Wednesday through Sunday. The enticements allegedly encourage players to continue gambling. The cafe contains 48 individual computer terminals with big, leather armchairs, separated by partitions.
Coakley is using a combination of criminal and civil enforcement measures in an effort to look into unlawful internet cafes throughout the state. Criminal indictments were returned by a special statewide grand jury last year against Leo's Place in Fall River and Fairhaven and Cafeno's Internet Cafe in Chicopee. The businesses and their owners are now facing charges of promoting or organizing gambling services along with operating an illegal lottery.