North Texas "Sweepstakes Gaming" Company Guilty of Running Illegal Gambling Operation

Over the past several years, in shopping malls and storefronts across the country, entrepreneurs have begun operating what are called sweepstakes parlors. They look and smell like miniature casinos, and they're lined with terminals featuring electronic games that bear an uncanny resemblance to slot machines, video poker and other games on which money tends to be wagered. But they aren't, their proprietors claim. That would be illegal, at least in most of the states where they operate.

Sweepstakes parlors have skirted state gambling laws, or tried to, by selling a product or service (often Internet access or phone cards, according to Wikipedia), then entering purchasers into a sweepstakes in which they can win cash by playing a game of chance. Think of playing the McDonald's Monopoly game, subtracting the hamburgers and adding the creepy casino atmosphere

At the forefront of the sweepstakes gaming trend -- indeed "the originator" of the entire industry, if its website is to be believed -- is a Haltom City software company called HEST Technologies.

HEST spills a lot of ink elaborating on just how above-board and completely legal its products are. So legal is it, that it touts its software as a fabulous way for charities and nonprofits to raise money. But its compatriots in the sweepstakes industry have found themselves on the losing end of a lot of arguments of late. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that "there are bans, criminal complaints or lawsuits pending in roughly 20 states."

Make that 21. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced this afternoon announcing that HEST Technologies pleaded guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity for gambling offenses. Its president, Chris Canard, pleaded guilty to the organized crime charge and for money laundering. Three others, including Canard's wife, also entered guilty pleas.

"HEST Technologies' promotional materials claimed that they develop 'sweepstakes promotional systems,'" Abbott's press release says. "However, the so-called 'sweepstakes' systems actually constituted an illegal lottery using gambling devices."

Law enforcement officers took a good deal of equipment and $1.5 million in gambling proceeds from a pair of HEST's Tarrant County offices. None of the guilty parties face jail time, though they will be forced to pay fines and be placed on community supervision. As for HEST, the company has to stop operating and dissolve within a year, which means it can no longer help bankroll charities. Because that's what the operation was all about: charity.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

This is the best gaming website,with the help of this website we can complete the game world.

Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

I play in a bar here weekly that pays cash out.

holmantx topcommenter

8-liner gambling parlors are everywhere in Galveston County.  The Sheriff's Department says if they raid the places the machines are confiscated and stored at county expense.  This is where the gaming hits the fan.

The gaming may be illegal but the machines aren't, and they are leased.  Moving and storing them is expensive and brings lawsuits, which the county has lost.  Damage to the expensive machines is reportedly huge and the fines the raids bring aren't much.  So they let them operate.

From the state attorney general on down through the TABC, DPS and local enforcement, they don't really do much about it.

And the places are packed 24-7.  You have to knock on the storefront to gain access.  They don't pay taxes and they don't receive city permits (C.O.s).  

It's a different world in the Houston-Galveston Metro.  If tried to get them out since they affect nearby property uses and values but it's a stone wall.

And they get robbed a lot.

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@cantkeepthetruthdown sounds like maybe an underground card room casino.  Every Casino Ive been in, is fairly opulent, comfortable and definitely not creepy

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault