Attorney General Bill Schuette on Monday accused Internet sweepstakes cafes in Holt, Lansing and Flint of conducting illegal gambling operations.
He ordered them to stop what he thinks are gambling operations and said they risk being shut down, sued or charged with crimes if they continue.
Armed with a black and silver, 9 mm Ruger pistol in a black holster, Shawn Osborne, 27, assistant manager of one of the businesses targeted by Schuette, expressed his own opinion about the announcement.
“We know it’s legal,” Osborne said on the sidewalk in front of the Lansing Business Center at 3620 S. Waverly Road. “If it was illegal, they’d shut us down.”
Schuette’s office sent letters to the Lansing location and the Flint Business Center, which Osborne said had common ownership with his store, as well as Cyber Cafe at 2495 Cedar St., in Holt. Schuette gave them 14 days to “cease and desist … ongoing gambling operations,” the attorney general said in a statement.
“If evidence of illegal gaming is uncovered at these cafes or elsewhere, we will work with the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Gaming Control Board to shut them down,” Schuette said.
“We have the reasonable expectation that people will follow the law, especially once they have been notified in writing. There’s no need to clog up the courts on this issue, if it can be avoided,” Joy Yearout a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said when asked why the businesses were not closed immediately.
Inside the Lansing Business Center, 14 customers sat in the cool darkness, each quietly focused on the flashing casino-style images displayed on one of approximately 68 computer monitors.
“You purchase Internet time and select the game you want to play,” Osborne said. “The points you win are redeemable for prizes.”
Schuette’s office said the majority of the stores it investigated paid cash prizes, “but in the event they’re offering merchandise, it still does not comply with state law.”
Asked about the pistol on his hip, Osborne said, “I guess you could say it’s for security because every law-abiding citizen has a right to be armed and to protect their property and themselves from bodily harm.”