The state shuts down six Phoenix internet cafes on suspicion of illegal gaming. Attorney General Mark Brnovich says these cafes posed as coffee shops providing internet access, but concealed their role as illegal gambling hangouts.

The suspected owner, 43 year old Eric Stelljes has been indicted on illegal gambling violations, including fraudulent schemes, conducting an illegal enterprise and promotion of gambling. Stelljes was also behind some so-called sweepstakes cafes in California which also have been shut down.

Authorities also seized 20-thousand dollars, 50 gambling devices and 21 weapons, among other thing.  Brnovich says, however, some customers had no idea they were breaking the law. Brnovich says, that’s plausible given the confusion some people face in what constitutes legal and illegal gambling. He says although there is a broad prohibition of gambling in Arizona, legal examples include the state lottery, gaming on reservations, or charity raffles.But he says, this was clearly a case of people “paying money for an opportunity to win a prize based on chance”.

The investigation is ongoing and, as of Wednesday afternoon, no arrests have been made.

–Barbara Villa

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