The owners of former B&B Cyber Café at the Bell Circle shopping center were indicted Monday, along with their corporation, on charges of operating an illegal slot parlor.
“We allege that this business was a front for an illegal gambling operation,” AG Martha Coakley said. “These defendants allegedly violated state gambling laws intended to prevent this very behavior to run an unregulated slot parlor that did not provide any protections for consumers.”
Robert Kelley, 47, of Revere, and Brian Symmes, 26, of Winthrop, were indicted on Monday by a Suffolk County Grand Jury on one count each of the following charges: unlawful operation of a game or gaming device, organizing or promoting a lottery, operating an illegal lottery, allowing lotteries in a building, and the sale of lottery tickets.
Kelley and Symmes allegedly operated popular “B&B Cyber Café” (B&B) in Revere through their corporation, Lucky Day Cyber Café, LLC. The corporation faces these same charges.
The café opened in 2010 and soon became wildly popular, especially among the elderly from Revere and Winthrop. A very public raid in March 2012 put the place out of business, much to the chagrin of a very loyal and close-knit customer base.
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to run or promote a gambling operation. The current gambling law in this case points to the existence of an illegal “lottery.” The definition of a lottery includes a payment to play, a prize, and some element of chance.
In February 2012, the Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into the operation of B&B. Investigation revealed that patrons of this Internet café were paying nearly exclusively for the right to gamble. Authorities allege that patrons were not, as advertised, simply paying for Internet time and playing a free sweepstakes. Investigators also allege that, “no purchase required” opportunities were of no legal significance and gambling was the only clear purpose for this café.
B&B has since ceased operation in the wake of the AG’s investigation.
A Suffolk County Grand Jury indicted Kelley, Symmes, and their corporation on Monday. They will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court at a later date.
This action by the AG’s Office is a direct result of complaints regarding alleged unlawful gambling operations that have recently opened for business in Massachusetts. The AG’s office issued permanent civil regulations in June 2011 under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. The Act bans the operation of so called “cyber cafés” or loophole casinos and similar establishments across the Commonwealth. Those that violate the law may be subject to injunctions, criminal charges, civil penalties and other relief under the Consumer Protection Act. Additionally, in August 2012, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that further enhances the criminal penalties for illegal gambling at “cyber cafés” throughout Massachusetts. The new law has gone into effect and establishes a new crime for conducting or promoting an unauthorized sweepstakes that is executed through the use of the entertaining display of an electronic machine. The new crime carries a penalty of up to $250,000 per offending machine and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years in state prison.
In August 2012, two individuals and their corporation pleaded guilty to gaming charges in connection with operations out of Internet cafés in Fall River and Fairhaven. A Chicopee Internet Café owner, his business partner, and their corporation were arraigned in January 2012 on charges of operating an illegal slot parlor. In March 2012, the owner of that café and his corporation were indicted on additional charges related to falsifying state tax returns and illegal lottery advertising. That case is still pending.