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Local Internet Sweepstakes Cafes Under Investigation

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(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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MONROEVILLE (KDKA) — With players playing video poker, Lucky 7s and keno for cash payouts, State police are investigating whether these internet cafes are violating state gaming laws — and even to the average customer — it does seem like casino gambling.

Male Customer: “It’s like a casino.”

Andy Sheehan: “Like a casino?”

Male Customer: “It’s like a mini-casino.”

Andy Sheehan: “Is this a casino?”

Chris Taylor: “Absolutely not, Andy. It is so far from the truth. I mean, I don’t even understand how they can compare this to a casino.”

Taylor, a manager at the Steel City Internet Cafe in Monroeville, says it’s a completely different animal.

“This is sweepstakes. We’re in the business of selling long-distance phone cards,” he explained.

The cafe sells pre-paid phone cards, allowing the customer to play so-called sweepstakes games. A $20 card will give you 2,000 points with which to play and amass points redeemable for cash.

“We have paid out on multiple occasions several hundred dollars,” Taylor said.

The district attorney’s office which is investigating the cafes with the state police say a major concern is whether these so-called sweepstakes games give the customer a fair shake.

On an internet site promoting the cafe franchises it states: “The house always wins — You become the house.”

“You want to see if the operators are breaking any laws but you also want to protect the people who are taking part in it to make sure that they’re not getting juiced,” says Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney, said.

Taylor maintains that it’s all legit and that plans are in the works to bring more cafes to the area.

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