A lot of states are seeing a particular type of business running today that tries to get around a lot of anti-gambling laws by taking advantage of rules on sweepstakes. The general idea is that sweepstakes laws protect companies like McDonalds who like to give out prizes for promotions without requiring that anyone buys anything. Along these lines, these "Internet Sweepstakes" businesses allow people to be given prizes based on purchasing time on the Internet or telephone cards.
How This Games Are Structured
In all fairness, the games these players are taking part in are designed to simulate playing online slots or video poker. The basic format for leveraging the sweepstakes laws is that a player will get a free prize for buying something like time to surf the Internet. Suppose you buy $5 worth of Internet time. That might also get you a free set of 100 spins on the simulated online slot. The software already knows what the result is going to be ahead of time, much like what happens with scratch-off lottery tickets, so it doesn't quite qualify as gambling.
Bobbing and Weaving
Different states, including California, have tried to pass laws to make these types of businesses illegal. However, they haven't had a lot of luck because the businesses keep figuring out ways to get around the changes in the law. For example, California-based games added skill game aspects to their games after Assembly Bill 1439 prohibited using sweepstakes promotions to simulate gambling through a video monitor.
Arguments For and Against Sweepstakes Games
There are arguments on both sides for these types of businesses. On the one hand, crime does tend to go up in areas where gambling (simulated or otherwise) is allowed, and the statistics showed this in Fairfield. On the other hand, a lot of people see sweepstakes games as being unfairly targeted when lottery tickets are available at virtually every gas station, grocery store and plenty of other shops in an area.
Overall, there's a legal battle being waged in a major way, and we're far from seeing the end of it. Before this is all said and done, we might see some of these businesses get involved with more common forms of online gambling if regulation happens sooner rather than later.