Chicopee "Internet Café" Owner Ordered to Preserve Assets and Documents
Express Internet Center Sued by AG's Office for Illegal Casino-style Computer Games Called "Wheel Deal" and "Lucky's Loot"
BOSTON – The owner of a Chicopee Internet café being sued by the Attorney General’s Office for allegedly offering illegal casino-style computer games called “Wheel Deal,” “Lucky’s Loot,” and “Snake Eyes” has been ordered to preserve all assets and documents, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
The preliminary injunction against Anthony Ardolino, owner of Express Internet Center, was issued on June 19 by Suffolk Superior Judge Frances A. McIntyre. A separate but similar preliminary injunction was issued on May 30 against the corporate defendant, Express Internet Center. The AG’s lawsuit was filed May 1 in Suffolk Superior Court.
“Our lawsuit alleges that this café is an unlawful establishment, profiting from unregulated and illegal gambling games with no posted odds, minimum odds, or guarantee of payouts for patrons,” AG 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 Express Internet Center and Ardolino to preserve relevant documents and also prohibit them from dissipating assets, except under limited circumstances. By issuing the preliminary injunctions, Judge McIntyre found that should the lawsuit proceed to trial, the AG’s Office is likely to prove that both defendants violated the Massachusetts Lottery Statute, the recently enacted gambling regulations and the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
According to the Attorney General’s complaint filed in May 2012, Express Internet Center and its owner, Anthony Ardolino, promoted illegal gambling through electronic slot machine games in direct violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act and Gambling Regulations enacted in June 2011.
Although Express Internet Center purports to sell Internet time, the complaint alleges that it profits from providing access to casino-style computer gambling games. During each Internet transaction, Express Internet Center provides patrons with electronic “points” that the patrons use to play gambling games on the café’s computers. Customers play the games hoping to win additional electronic “points” that can be turned back in for cash – similar to the way a casino uses chips and allows them to be redeemed for cash. According to the complaint, the sale of Internet time and computer services are a ruse designed to skirt state laws prohibiting individuals and businesses from soliciting or accepting payment for the chance to win a prize.
The complaint further alleges that Express Internet Center looks and operates very much like an actual casino. According to the complaint, the café provides free food and drink and offers free lunch each week Wednesday through Sunday. These enticements allegedly encourage players to keep gambling. The café features 48 individual computer terminals with large, leather armchairs, separated by partitions to offer privacy.
The AG’s Office is using a combination of civil and criminal enforcement measures to investigate unlawful internet cafés throughout the Commonwealth. A special statewide grand jury returned criminal indictments last year against “Cafeno’s Internet Café” in Chicopee and “Leo’s Place” located in Fall River and Fairhaven. The businesses and their owners currently face charges of organizing or promoting gambling services and operating an illegal lottery.
The Attorney General’s investigation into various Internet cafés throughout the Commonwealth remains ongoing.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Gabriel O’Malley, Special Assistant Attorney General, Dante Annicelli, and Investigator Kristen Metzger.