Flint, Michigan – According to Jerold Jaffe, a 66 year old from Michigan, he said he was stunned to be facing up to 10 years in prison. “He’s had maybe three traffic violations in his whole life,” proclaims his son, David Jaffe.
The Sylvania resident was charged with operating an illegal gambling operation at the end of June after the Michigan Attorney General closed 59 internet cafes across the state, including Mr. Jaffe’s Lambertville store.
It may look like a casino —even act like one — but Mr. Jaffe insists that no gambling ever took place at his establishment, which was located along Secor Rd. near Consear Rd. “From what my attorney tells me,” Mr. Jaffe said, “the definition of gambling in both Ohio and Michigan is that you have to put something of value up at risk based on a random event, like the turn of a card, the role of a dice, a horserace or a football game.” “There is no money to be put up. You just play the games and if you win, you win.”
Here’s how the games are played ; When a customer enters one of internet sweepstakes cafes, they purchase a certain amount of time on the Internet (much like purchasing a hamburger at Mcdonalds) They are given a card that allows them access to a computer. (Much like being given a Monopoly game piece on the sandwich wrapper at Mcdonalds) Once the computer is activated, the customer is taken straight to a Google browser where a timer in the upper right-hand corner of the screen indicates how much time they have left online. (The games do not effect the amount of time purchased) Should they decide to play the casino-style games, they simply click off the browser screen — causing the timer to freeze. They then can play games for as long as they wish and win a predetermined amount of money. (Much like winning instantly at Mcdonalds or going to www.playatmcd.com) “No purchase is necessary — like Publishers Clearing House,” Mr. Jaffe said. “The games are pre-determined, therefore where the law says ‘random event’ this is not a random event.” The strategy for determining the amount won is posted right there in the store. In fact, customers don’t even have to play the games in order to win the money.
“Some people will come in and say, ‘Hey, I want $5 of Internet time — tell me how much money I win.’ And they get (the money) right there,” said David, who acts as a regional manager for the business. “Some people do come in just to use the Internet, but almost everybody checks to see how much they have won.” “This is a place that promotes sweepstakes. It’s a new thing, and I can see why they took a second look at us. But it’s the same as the sweepstakes you get in the mail,” David said. The Jaffes said when they opened, they had a meeting with town officials to inform them of the business’ model and the township had no problem with them opening. Later, they employed Temperance attorney Tim Churchill to look into the issue further. Mr. Churchill said he met with the Monroe County prosecutor and was told no one at that time had been criminally charged for the activity. “We did not just go in and open up these stores,” David said. “We were looking for a reason not to open up, but they couldn’t find one.” They continued operating for two years under the assumption that if they were to receive a cease-and-desist order from the State of Michigan, they would close their doors as soon as it arrived but it never came, and Mr. Jaffe said he was shocked to receive a phone call that his cafe was being raided. “They took all of the equipment,” Mr. Jaffe said. “They took $61,000 out of our bank accounts. And they said that we were breaking the law. “I don’t think it’s fair. I had permission from everyone to open. I would have closed on a minute’s notice had they told me to.” Mr. Jaffe went to the cafe while it was being raided and told the police he was the owner — which led to him being charged in the crime. His 30-year-old nephew, Jacob Jaffe, was working at the store when police showed up. He also was charged. “I walked in and said ‘I’m the owner, I’ll answer any questions — we’re not doing anything illegal here,’” Mr. Jaffe said. “I was grilled by the state police and answered every one of their questions.” That same day, the Jaffes closed their Adrian cafe as well before it was raided by police. Now, they have customers from Bedford and Adrian coming to their Toledo store, where the sweepstakes — for now — are still legal. Mr. Jaffe and his nephew are still amid court proceedings in the case. Mr. Churchill said he is currently negotiating with the Attorney General for a resolution, but nothing has been determined. “The cops told me I was a standup guy because they usually have to chase the owner out the back door,” Mr. Jaffe said. “I said ‘That’s because you raid places that are illegal — I’m doing nothing wrong.’”
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