Online gambling has been such an issue in the past that large parts of the United States have gone together and tried to completely ban it so that residents aren’t able to easily waste all their money away just by a simple click. However, some businesses have tried to get around the ban by looking into loopholes in which they can operate gambling services without being shut down through the government. One of these loopholes was used by operating services that were based on “sweepstakes”.
The idea of sweepstakes being used instead of traditional gambling when offering services is that a business can offer games in which the outcome was already predicted, breaking away from traditional gambling. Local businesses in Virginia such as Match Point and Armory Station were able to operate under these loopholes by exchanging Internet time for customers to gain the ability to enter these sweepstakes. While legislators in Virginia have said that they believe this is completely gambling, business owners have thought otherwise as the owner of Match Point, Azhar Kahn, has been on record to say that he believes that his sweepstakes services are similar to scratch-off tickets in that they aren’t the only thing they offer along with the results being pre-determined as well. Explanations about sweepstakes services didn’t change the outcome in the end when it came to legality as legislators got together to try to change how these businesses operate.
The loophole that has allowed sweepstakes to operate has been open for a long time. However, it only gained public scrutiny earlier in 2011 when one business was found to be operating their sweepstakes services by allowing each of their customers to use their sweepstakes entries on computers that would show a virtual slot machine being pulled. Legislators quickly took action after the public learned about this in enacting a law that completely banned sweepstakes businesses from operating as of July 1st, 2011. This law was quickly took in action by not even the police but landlords who have forced businesses to not operate anymore such as Lucky’s Sweepstakes which was a business in Virginia that was completely locked out one day from even entering their store. Lucky’s Sweepstakes was a unique target as they were successful enough to be open 24 hours certain days of the week, meaning that landlords weren’t too concerned about their tenants not being able to pay their rent. Scrutiny from the state and landlords have led many business owners in Virginia to be mad about their rights to operate a business.
Before closing down his business, Azhar Kahn of Match Point talked about his role in the local community and how he was making money. Kahn said “It’s not gaming, it’s more entertainment.”, believing that he was only creating a place for locals to be able to enjoy themselves.
Additionally, Kahn believes that the state of Virginia isn’t helping many local business owners and those that are trying to move to the state as they are being discouraged from operating a business that can help them bring money to the table. Either way, other sweepstakes business owners didn’t agree to fight the law moving forward as they either have completely shut down their business or methods of communication such as the phone line for Lucky Cafe which was operating a sweepstakes business.
As this loophole was patched, Virginia legislators have been on record to say they are going to be looking into more ways that residents of Virginia could be losing money from gambling. In words of delegate Bill Barlow, gambling online is too easy to not be regulated.
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