More Arrests Pending in Internet Sweepstakes Cafes Investigation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New developments in the Troubleshooters investigation of internet sweepstakes games. Two new arrest warrants have been issued. (Published Friday, May 9, 2014)

    Police issued arrest warrants in March for two people connected to an alleged internet sweepstakes café in Bloomfield, police confirmed.

    Gardner Payne and Susanne Barham face pending charges of illegal gambling and illegally maintaining a gambling premises out of the Bloomfield Business Center on Park Avenue, but Capt. Stephen Hajdasz confirmed that Bloomfield police haven't served the warrants yet because the two suspects live in North Carolina.

    In January, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters went undercover to expose three local business centers offering free “sweepstakes” to customers who purchased merchandise from their stores.

    Along with the Bloomfield Business Center, the games were also operating out of the Mouse Pad Business Center and Tech Solutions in Enfield and Internet Connections in East Windsor.

    What we found were dozens of people, mostly senior citizens, playing slot style video games and winning real cash.

    The day after our investigation aired, State Senators Joan Hartley and Dante Bartolomeo held a press conference to announce a bill which would ban the internet sweepstakes café style businesses from operating in the state.

    They accused the businesses of “preying” on the elderly and violating the exclusive slot revenue compact with the state’s two tribal casinos.

    Representatives for the business centers argued the games were legal under the state’s sweepstakes laws.

    In February, the businesses were shut down following raids by state and local police.

    Stephen Scott, manager of the Mouse Pad Business Center, turned himself in the next day to State Police in Hartford on charges of illegal gambling, operating gambling devices and illegally maintaining a gambling premises.

    He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear again in court May 22.

    The Troubleshooters did reach out for comment on the arrest warrants to Gardner Payne but have not heard back yet.

    Payne, a former political insider turned lobbyist for the internet sweepstakes industry in North Carolina, was acquitted in that state’s first internet sweepstakes related trial in December.

    The bill banning the games in Connecticut was included in the 300-plus page Budget Implementer Bill. The state House and the Senate both passed the bill in the waning minutes of this year’s legislative session.