GRETNA, La. – Police believe three men from Michigan were running an illegal gambling operation out of a business on the Westbank Expressway.
According to police, the business, Lucky Times Café, purported to be an internet café, licensed to rent computers for customers and offering copying, faxing and printing services. Instead the investigators from State Police, Gretna Police and the Westbank Major Crime Task Force found over 100 “terminals were actually being utilized as independent gaming stations allowing internet access to games such as blackjack, slot machines, roulette and video poker,” said Deputy Chief Anthony Christiana.
During a two-month undercover investigation, officers went into the café, bought credits, which were transferred to a card with a pin and password. The undercover officers were able to go a terminal, swipe their cards and make bets on several games, said Gretna Police.
“The theory that the violators utilize to justify this activity as being legal is that it is a sweepstakes game and not gambling. The investigation proves that the operation of the establishment is in violation of Louisiana State Law relative to 90.3 Gambling by Computer,” said Christiana.
In an attempt to skirt the laws, Christiana said, Internet sweepstakes cafes have sprung up in more than a dozen states. The cafes attempt to take advantage of state sweepstakes laws and to avoid state anti-gambling laws and gambling licensing restrictions with games that closely mimic the experience of traditional slot and video poker machines.
The three men -- Marshall Isso, 50, Jason Tomas, 35, and Manuel Villagran, 48 -- are from the Detroit, Mich. area.