PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They call themselves Internet sweepstakes cafés.
You buy a phone card, which buys you time on a computer, and you can play video poker or Keno for cash or prizes.
But after KDKA’s reports, the legislature declared them gambling parlors and passed legislation banning them.
“You cannot do this simulated gambling within the state of Pennsylvania,” says State Sen. Randy Vulakovich.
But more than a year after the ban was signed into law; KDKA found that a café in East Liberty was still in operation.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “You open?”
Café Employee: “No. What can I help you with?”
Sheehan: “Are you still running the sweepstakes?”
Café Employee: “I’m not running anything. Get the camera out of here please.”
One in Penn Hills was also open for business.
Sheehan: “You still running this thing?”
Café Employee: “This is Internet. We have a sweepstakes. We have cards. We sell phone cards.”
Sheehan: “You have a sweepstakes. These places have been declared illegal. They passed a law against them.”
Café Employee: “You know what? Get out.”
Sheehan: “Excuse me?”
Café Employee: “This is private property. You’re not allowed in here. And I’m not talking.”
When KDKA alerted him to these facts, the bill’s sponsor – Sen. Vulakovich – called on the state police and other local police departments to enforce the law and shut down all of the estimated 70 cafés across the state.
“Any police department can close it down. Why they’re not, I don’t know,” said Sen. Vulakovich. “So, I am setting a meeting up with the Attorney General’s Office, and speak to them. Maybe we need to get the message out there that nobody’s addressed this issue, and it needs to be addressed.”
But for now, the places are still open.
Sheehan: “Buy a phone card and play the slots.”
“Every now and then,” said Will Smith, of East Liberty.
Sheehan: “Win anything?”
Smith: “From time to time.”
Folks like Smith didn’t even know the cafés were operating outside the law.
Smith: “Okay. He must not have gotten the memo then.”
Smith: “He must not have gotten the memo.”
KDKA Investigation: Legitimate Businesses Or Convenience Casinos? (5/19/11)
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