I-Team: Mini-Casinos Operating Across Mass. In Legal Loophole

By Joe Shortsleeve, Chief Correspondent for WBZ-TV I-Team

BOSTON (CBS) – Gambling casinos in Massachusetts? They are still not allowed, but the i-Team found plenty of people playing slots and video poker right here in the Bay State.

Is it legal? Or are some enterprising entrepreneurs taking advantage of a loop hole in the law?

Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve says state officials are scrambling.

Take a walk inside this so called “Sweepstakes” internet café at Bell Circle in Revere and you would think you were at Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun.

And just like the Connecticut casinos, you can play video slots with cash payouts.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports.

Patrons say “it is gambling and I love it!”

“You play….. You win money!”

These businesses call themselves “sweepstakes” and they are popping up everywhere.

So how is this legal?

Well, these places say they are selling internet time, meaning you are buying time to surf the web. But the i-Team couldn’t find anyone doing that. You see, in return for buying internet time, you are given points or dollars to play sweepstakes games on the casino-like software that already exists on the computer. If you win, you get paid in cash.

The i-Team sent an undercover camera into the “Sweepstakes” on Route One in Lynnfield. We purchased $40 worth of internet time and were given about $45 worth of points.

The i-Team was paid in cash for our $8 in winnings as we left.

Anthony Sabia owns the Route One location. He says it is not gambling. He says anyone can come in and play a small amount of points for free, or about three spins. And that makes the whole operation legal under Massachusetts laws governing sweepstakes.

Sabia says “it is like McDonald’s and the Monopoly game. We give the same opportunity to a non-paying customer as a paying customer.”

Companies selling the sweepstakes software are the craze on internet. Ads call them the fastest growing companies in the country.

These sites even tout that they are legal in Massachusetts.

Tony Marino sells the casino like software from a prominent spot at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers.

He admits they are operating in a loop hole in the law.

“If we are doing something wrong just come and tell us and we will stop…and they have not done that.”

But that could change soon.

The Attorney General’s office tells the i-Team they are investigating these sites.

“We are looking into issues surrounding these cyber cafes. While they must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, people should be aware that if there is an exchange of money, it may be a violation of the law. If people have questions or concerns, they can contact our office’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400.”

Representative Brad Jones, Minority Leader on Beacon Hill, says lawmakers don’t like what they see coming down the road.

“I think this loop hole needs to be examined and may very well need to be closed.”

Jones says “it would seem to me if nothing is done… the number is going to amplify which is going to increase competition to the Lottery which is going to hurt cities and towns.”

Yes…taking millions off the table.

The i-Team has learned there are at least seven “sweepstakes” currently operating in the Bay State, with another dozen in the pipeline.

  • Bob

    What about the poker rooms at Raymen dog track and a place called silverfox they play turnaments and no limit cash games and the state gets nothing from it is this legal as well

    • Bob

      added on from the top comment…. we have been told this

  • Cynic

    No wonder the State went after the Mafia so hard…. They have so much in common.
    It is only a crime when the State isn”t the one doing it.

  • Dan

    they should look into the MVets club behind the hampton inn in Natick they have slots there too,

  • jimmy

    they are not playing slots. the winning sweepstakes are predetermined. its an illusion that its a slot. a person can instantly reveal their entries just like a mcdonalds french fry. this is harmless entertainment and they sell a product. why are people so angry when a buisness comes up with a great marketing idea? this is america, if there is not a law that says it legal, its automatically illegal. well thats not the case.

    • Nick the Greek

      People should be allowed to do what they want in Mass. The pols are always looking to hurt people doing nothing but entertaining themselves.

  • Ken

    The only reason video poker is illegal is the fatcats and do nothings on beacon hill are not getting a piece of the action.

  • cliffy
  • Dan Brown

    April 2nd They are planning on opening a No Limit Poker Room in north reading at Kitty’s. Right in my neighborhood! I think its ridiculous that Massachusetts hasn’t approved casinos, yet they seem to be opening up all over the state with no consequences, no regulation, no one keeping an eye on these. I feel like its the wild west. Also who is operating these Rooms. Rightnow I know for afact that the arenot requiring any licensing or background checks for the game operators, dealers, anyone! So it could be a felon, stealing ur money and the ‘charities’ cut as well. I think this needs to be stopped immediately before it gets outta hand!

    • Steven Almeida

      Hi Dan Is Kitty’s your room

      I work as a dealer/floor man at 4 Jacks in Rochester,

      I do not work on Sat. so my boss Rich said to see if you need any pro dealers
      to run your no lemit games

      my name is Steven Almeida call or text me



  • Joe Pescione

    let us gamble the elected officals aes crooks stealing money any was

  • http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/03/31/127575/ CBS Boston

    […] It’s a story the I-Team told you about in March. […]

  • http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/03/31/i-team-update-ag-crackdown-on-mini-casinos/ I-Team Update: AG Crackdown On Mini Casinos « CBS Boston

    […] It’s a story the I-Team told you about in March. […]

  • Luckylady

    Yesterday, 2 of these internet cafes where closed and raided by Attorney General’s office in Fairhaven. How long do you think it will take for them to close Lynnfield & Revere.

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    […] a story the I-Team broke, Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve says, the AG says these businesses are breaking the […]

  • http://www.toppokerclubs.com/172/i-team-coakley-shuts-down-mini-casinos I-Team: Coakley Shuts Down Mini-Casinos | Top Poker Clubs

    […] a story the I-Team broke, Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve says, the AG says these businesses are breaking the […]

  • iris

    I went there and they not paid anything ,they rober the senior people.

  • iris

    we need an investigation or call consumer services because i been playing there for months y I never win anything and so many people are said the
    same.we are planing to call newspaper report .

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