Police Bust Alleged Illegal Gambling Cafe

Small changes to Utah civil forfeiture law could mean big payouts for police.


slot machine
Clarita/Morgue File

A Utah police department has seized approximately $10,000 and 150 gaming machines from three internet cafes, but has not arrested anyone.

The Mouse Pad Cafes in Salt Lake City, Midvale, and Kearns were allegedly running "internet sweepstakes cafes," a creative attempt at getting around the prohibition on gambling. The cafes sell internet time or phone cards and give customers free entries in a sweepstakes. Customers can use their internet time to play games like video poker to find out if they won the sweepstakes. Unlike traditional gambling, the decisions a customer makes while playing do not affect whether or not he wins. Instead, the games are considered an entertaining way of finding out if one of your "free entries" was a winner.

In past cases, the courts have universally considered internet sweepstakes cafes to be gambling, worthy of the same regulations as traditional casinos.  

According to Unified Police Department (UPD) spokesman Lt. Lex Bell, the investigation began when nearby businesses complained about the Midvale and Kearns locations. The problem was not only the illegal activity happening in the cafes themselves, but also increased illegal activity in the surrounding areas, from drug deals to violent crime.

All three locations were raided simultaneously on January 14. Authorities seized the cash and machines, and detained a combined seven employees for questioning. The UPD says the delay in arrests is because it is unclear whether this was a federal or local offense and further investigation of the machines taken will answer that question. The location in Midvale has lost its business license as a result of the raid.

While it is certainly possible and maybe even probable that authorities will arrest those responsible, the police don't necessarily have to return property seized even if they don't make any arrests. Utah law allows local police to keep up to 100 percent of the money taken under such circumstances, and like most states, it does not require a conviction.

In fact, the Utah state legislature unanimously voted to liberalize civil forfeiture laws in 2013. According to the Institute for Justice's Nick Sibilla, writing in Forbes, the vote was far from transparent—sponsor Sen. Curt Bramble called it a "re-codifying of existing law." But this "re-codification" made it optional for governments to repay the prevailing party's legal fees when they lose a civil forfeiture case and placed a cap on how much governments are allowed to pay.

The fate of the $10,000 seized from the Mouse Pad cafes is still undetermined, but either way, citizens should be livid that the legislature acted in such a deceptive manner.

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  1. Deceptive legislators? Say it isn’t so.

  2. The problem was not only the illegal activity happening in the cafes themselves

    Internet Sweepstakes Cafes killed my mother and raped my father.

  3. “The problem was not only the illegal activity happening in the cafes themselves, but also increased illegal activity in the surrounding areas, from drug deals to violent crime.”

    So rather than actually try to deal with violent criminals, the police decide to bust internet cafes for video poker machines.

    Tell me again why we always need MORE police?

    1. Also, that internet sweepstakes cafes increase ancillary crime in the area is complete bullshit.

      1. I don’t know much about them, but it seems to me at least just as likely that these types of things open up in areas that are already prone to crime. (Or that there is NO higher crime either way, and it is just a way for other businesses to shut them out and obviously excuses for police to get money from people that are not likely to shoot at them).

        1. You are correct. I am a video game developer by trade, and I have in the past built dozens of these games for a development studio. They typically do go into low-income areas.

          However, the little guy isn’t as hurt by the big bad government as you think. These “grey market” (what they call themselves) companies factor in that one day the government will kick in their doors, steal all their stuff, and there will be expensive legal challenges. It’s a part of their business model. They typically come out ahead because of the slowness of the government in identifying and acting… making millions in the interim. Then, if there is a ruling that says their platform is illegal, their lawyers (who are better and quicker) come up with a new way of interpreting the law and change all their games. They give me a ring and a contract, and say they’ll pay me extra to make these changes as quick as possible. I come in and change the behavior of all their games to fit the new rules. It’ll usually take the government a couple of years to act on these new games. Rinse. Repeat. It’s all a waste of everyone’s time really. There is never any more than a couple days when there is not easy access to gambling for anyone.

          1. And all because some people want to pay money to have fun and (foolishly in most cases) try to win even more money. At least the state doesn’t condone that behavior……….. (cue Powerball commercial)

            1. HA! Here in Georgia all the slot machines “for entertainment purposes only” that the store owners would give you cash or merchandise for points have been taken over by the Georgia Lottery. It’s now still illegal for the store owner to use those machines to give you a few packs of smokes but perfectly legal for him to use them to give you lottery tickets. (I have a theory that since it was only illegal to give you anything of value, it would have been perfectly legal for the storeowner to give you lottery tickets all along.)

              1. Yes. That’s another grey market area that’s being tested. You can give away things that aren’t directly exchangeable for cash. In Texas, it was common to give away Walmart gift cards for awhile which couldn’t be redeemed. So you were getting awards which were “as good as” cash out in the country.

            2. Yup. Sweepstakes games are very low stakes too, and of course pay out way more on the dollar than state lotteries.

              I worked in this industry for years, though primarily for the strictly legal variety. Especially Indian casinos which often have legal slots, but restrict other forms of gambling… so their slots are very high tech and competitive (ex: Oklahoma).

              You know who the biggest lobbyists in Texas and other states against legalizing gambling? Nope, it’s not the evangelical Christians.

              Guessed it now?

              It’s the Indian casinos, of course.

              1. I’m surprised it wasn’t Vegas or Atlantic City casinos.

                Of course, many “Indian” casinos are actually run by Vegas/Atlantic City casino companies (Harrah’s runs several).

              2. Same in Minnesota, although we still allow daily fantasy sports betting.

          2. you’re complaining about the jobs it creates? seems like a win-win to me

  4. But this “re-codification” made it optional for governments to repay the prevailing party’s legal fees when they lose a civil forfeiture case and placed a cap on how much governments are allowed to pay.

    Sounds like that cap is effectively zero.

    1. Well, if you have a friend or two in government …

  5. “The UPD says the delay in arrests is because it is unclear whether this was a federal or local offense and further investigation of the machines taken will answer that question.”

    WTF?? FFS how much fucking “investigation” does this take? If the fucking cops don’t even know the law, how are we proles supposed to.

    I mean they aren’t even trying to hide this bullshit.

    1. Investigating which pawn shop will pay the most for them.

    2. If the fucking cops don’t even know the law, how are we proles supposed to.

      I realize this is a rhetorical question, Bear; but they just enforce what they consider the law.

      1. *** reads below ***

  6. So either the cops had probably cause of a crime being committed (in which case they ought to know what crime they think is being committed) or a judge had to sign off on a warrant. I mean I know judges aren’t worth a shit anymore regarding protecting liberty, but to get a search and/or seizure warrant don’t the cops have to tell the judge WHY they think they are illegal?????

    And if it is only a case that the cops know these are illegal per local law, but are just trying to see if federal law was ALSO broken, that isn’t their fucking job. I am not in a hurry to see people arrested on bullshit, but if the police are going to seize $10000 worth of shit, they should at least have enough of a case to know what laws they are supposed to have broken.

  7. If the fucking cops don’t even know the law, how are we proles supposed to.

    A police officer’s reasonable mistake of law gives rise to reasonable suspicion that justifies a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment.

    You see, when a cop doesn’t know the law, that can be a reasonable mistake. If a prole doesn’t know the law, tough noogies.

    1. I remember this decision. I just reread it. And while I think it does give too much leeway to police in a “reasonable mistake of law”, I have to say that 1) the owner of the car DID give permission for the search and 2) there was a fair amount of ambiguity in that law.

      In other words, I don’t like the decision, and it certainly get reinforce letting cops make up shit as they go, but it doesn’t seem like it rises to the level of outrage as it would when cops bust people and then try to figure out what laws they MIGHT have broken.

      1. Still a double standard. If you misinterpret a vague law, you’re still fucked. If a cop does it, he’s not. That’s not justice, or the rule of law.

        1. Don’t get we wrong I completely agree.

          I think what my feeling is, is that if this particular case set a limit to how far a cop could go in terms of interpreting a vague law, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. In other words, I think it could be considered reasonable if the most a cop could do was interpret that vague a law, in terms of whether or not a person could get pulled over for a civil traffic citation only.

          Unfortunately, I know that this case simply becomes one more precedent in the long list of reasons why cops don’t have to know the law, and we do.

        2. Not knowing whether the statute required two distinct lamp lights is, per se, unreasonable.

          1. This case is just another reminder of the lunacy in reposing faith in a system of justice monopolized by an armed group of thugs.

            Note how the court asserts, extra-textually, that the law does not require the state’s privileged purveyors of violence to act perfectly, just that they act reasonably. It is manifestly unreasonable to predicate a stop upon ignorance of the law.

            Plus, the text of the fourth amendment does not authorize the interdiction of the means of travel without a warrant. The text does not authorize the judiciary to re-write the meaning of the amendment in order to make it easier for their fellow parasites in blue to detain you.

  8. Way, WAY off topic.

    Patrice O’Neal having a chat with a feminist.

  9. In fact, the Utah state legislature unanimously voted to liberalize civil forfeiture laws in 2013.

    The most outrageous part of this is that the voters in Utah passed a ballot initiative reining in the civil asset forfeiture and the lege then turned right around and undid the voter’s reform. IIRC, a lawsuit over the issue of whether or ot the lege could undo a ballot-initiative law was shot down on the grounds that the lege necessarily has to have the power to change laws and tough noogies if that law was one passed directly by The People themselves rather than through their representatives. By why the hell there weren’t legislators hanging from trees after doing some shit like that is beyond me. Wethepeople tells you to do something and you tell them to fuck off, you’re not the boss of me? How does that work?

    1. Pretty efficiently.

    2. It is very similar to when Congress acted tough against Obamacare when they knew that over 65% of citizens were againsts it and elected a Congress that , excepting for one or two (Cruz) only fought against it as it applied to them.

      The only time they listen to us is after they lose an election. when they win an election they listen to their donors.

      Ted Cruz is the only politician in my life who’s pre election rhetoric matched his post election victory exactly.

  10. Utah’s so weird. I love that state. I ride up to Zion every summer. It’s amazing. So is Moab. So are the Canyonlands.

    The whole West is weird about what you can and can’t do.

    You can buy recreational marijuana in Colorado.

    In Utah, you don’t need a permit to carry a gun, but they won’t let you gamble. They don’t even have a lottery.

    In Nevada, You can’t buy a lottery ticket. You have to go to California. But gun ownership is easy, you can gamble in a casino, and prostitution is legal in Nevada.

    The other weird thing about Utah. They’ve got a production beer there called “Cutthroat” after the trout.

    It’s my favorite bottled beer. But you can’t buy it anywhere outside of Utah. They won’t even ship it to you as far as I can tell. And when you buy it in Utah? 1) They only sell it through certain state owned liquor stores 2) They can’t sell it cold for take out 3) Anywhere you can buy beer, they won’t sell you a bottle opener!

    The best damn beer around? You can’t get it anywhere but in Utah, and getting it in Utah is a pain in the ass.

    But you don’t have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Utah.

    It’s weird.

    1. I heard somewhere (the internet, a human?) that Utah has a great beer culture.

      1. You have to really want it.

        One does not simply walk into Utah and buy a cold beer.

        1. Perhaps I should have said it was small, eclectic and passionate.

          1. Yeah, I was agreeing with you!

            1. Yeah, it’s interesting.

    2. You should learn to brew. That way you can make the beers you like, and drink them whenever you want.

      1. But they already make the beer I want!

      2. I’m currently drinking a session ale. I made a fairly dark beer with low bitterness and moderate alcohol content. Something that goes down easy but doesn’t make you stupid if you quaff it. In another keg is a pumpkin ale that is fabulous, and I’ve got my first pilsner of the season fermenting. (I can only brew pilsner in the winter because it requires fermentation temperatures in the low to mid 50s.)

        1. A lot of that comes from you having made it though, right?

          I mean . . . part of the reason you like it is because you made it.

          Isn’t it like thinking your own kids are gorgeous?

          1. Nope, I’ve made plenty of crappy wine and beer.

        2. Recipe?

    3. Cutthroat Pale Ale is an American Pale Ale.

      There are over 8,500 American pale ales?

      Surely you can find another brand.

      1. What they’ve done to the pale ale in this country is a travesty. And then they started rebrewing Bass for a general American audience–tastes like Bass kool-aid now. There goes my standby!

        Some of the pale ale they brew is so hoppy, I don’t know whether I’m supposed to drink it or use it to clean silver.

      2. And besides, I should be able to have it delivered by drone!

        Why should I have to go look for something else?

    4. rent there some dumb ABV limits specific to that state?

  11. Incidentally, anybody else watching The Expanse?

    Spoiler alert–if you didn’t see Tuesday night’s episode . . .

    From the first episode, one of the main characters has been supervising a gigantic construction project in space. He’s building it for the Mormons. They want to go out and look for the planet Kolob, apparently.

    Anyway, I always thought he was working on a ship for them, but an external image of the partially completed project was in the other night’s episode–and it’s a giant statue of the Angel Moroni . . . in space!

    On the one hand, that seems ridiculous, like what Matt & Trey would dream up if Mormons went into space in a South Park episode. But on the other hand, that’s exactly what you’d expect the Mormons to build if they could.

    I’ve been meaning to write a letter to the Mormon leadership for some time–from that big temple with the Moroni statue near where I grew up in DC, to the temple In La Jolla (San Diego) with the giant Moroni statue, Mormon architecture seems a little . . . ostentatious. Not that they don’t have the right to build whatever they want on their own property, it’s just that if they can make it a pain in the ass for us to get Cutthroat and hassle people about gambling, then I should have a right to say what I think about their architecture.

    I’m just sayin’.

    1. Given that there is no resistance to push through, there is no reason that a spaceship can’t be in the form of a statue. It’s just as efficient to push that through space as the Battlestar Galactica.

      1. I’m sure that’s true.

        It just seems a little . . . ostentatious.

        I’d have mine built to look like Marilyn Monroe with the exhaust engine ported out her ass,

        Or maybe I’d make it look like Ayn Rand, Evel Knievel, Abe Vigoda, or some other great American.

    1. +1 to the intern.

    2. Yeah, intern got a story!

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