Cuyahoga County

Shuttering Illegal Internet Casinos

Working with the Ohio Attorney General’s office, the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Secret Service, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and the Parma Heights Police Department, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office shut down 54 storefront casinos that were flaunting state laws. Those laws permitted gambling only at racetracks, licensed casinos, and charity events – or under the auspices of the Ohio Lottery Commission.

Time and again, the law-enforcement consortium filled trucks with computer servers, electronic slot machines and other gambling paraphernalia. They carted off cash and froze the assets of storefront casinos that had continued to operate even after the 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals agreed with this office that they were illegal.

Law enforcement also took aim at the out-of-state software and hardware suppliers and investors who made the bogus casinos possible. This office filed organized crime charges against them and served a search warrant on the New Jersey headquarters of one company, turning up details of contributions to Ohio legislators. Those revelations helped melt the Internet casino lobby’s support in Columbus, strengthened the hand of allies such as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine who were battling the illegal operations within the Statehouse and led to a new state law that capped the value of so-called “sweepstakes” games.

When the Internet gamers tried to overturn the statute via referendum, they failed to gather enough signatures.

Finally, a series of criminal cases in Cuyahoga County with active support from the attorney general culminated with guilty pleas from corporate and individual defendants. The plea deal included a provision that the defendants would cease operations in Ohio.

The convictions have netted fines and forfeitures of more than $1.5 million. That money will be shared among the partners to help cover the costs of their law-enforcement offensive.

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