Michigan Attorney General Shuts Down Illegal Online Casino

Written By Dave Briggs on September 13, 2023
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Attorney General Dana Nessel has shut down an online casino operating illegally in Michigan.

On Tuesday, Nessel announced that her office’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division had stopped Massachusetts-based Golden Heart Games, Inc. from offering its online gambling platform to Michigan residents.

“Unlicensed gaming robs our schools and our government of essential funding and leaves consumers unprotected,” Nessel said in a release. “When companies like Golden Hearts attempt to circumvent Michigan’s gaming laws, they create the false impression that their games are legal and safe for consumers. My office is committed to ensuring that our gaming laws are strictly enforced and those who violate those laws are held accountable.”

Golden Hearts’ website says it, “operates a real-money promotional games platform that supports charity and where winners receive Redeemable Sweeps Coins which may be exchanged for real cash payouts or digital gift cards. Golden Hearts Games offers many games including slot machines, live-action multi-player bingo, blackjack, video poker and instant win scratch games, all of which pay out Redeemable Sweeps Coins that winners keep.

“Players’ support of charity occurs when they buy in, to receive Golden Hearts Games virtual currency, called Sweeps Coins, which they use to play games. Golden Hearts Games players may support any philanthropic organization they like (as long as it’s an IRS-recognized U.S. public charity in good standing).”

Shutdown brings an end to a two-year saga

Michigan gaming regulators began investigating Golden Hearts Games in August 2021. That investigation found that Golden Hearts does not hold a gaming license in Michigan.

In 2022, the Department of Attorney General issued a cease-and-desist letter to Golden Hearts.

Yet, Golden Hearts continued to offer online casino products to Michigan residents.

Then, the Department moved to sue the company under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Golden Hearts was told it violated the Lawful Internet Gaming Act and was “deceiving Michiganders into thinking that they were participating in legal gaming.”

That led Golden Hearts to sign an Assurance of Discontinuance stating it would no longer offer its online casino to Michigan residents. On Sept. 1, the Assurance of Discontinuance was filed in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Further, a Department of Attorney General press release said:

“Golden Hearts’ decision to sign an Assurance of Discontinuance is the culmination of the Department of Attorney General’s collaboration with MGCB to hold accountable individuals who try to take advantage of Michigan consumers by offering unregulated and unlicensed gaming. Michigan’s Lawful Internet Gaming Act imposes stringent standards on those who are both eligible and suitable for licensure. The highly-regulated industry ensures that Michigan residents are offered fair and honest gaming.

Estimates: more than $15 billion gambled illegally in Michigan every year

Some $511 billion is gambled illegally every year in the United States says the American Gaming Association. Per capita that amounts to more than $15 billion gambled illegally in Michigan alone annually.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board put an emphasis on the crackdown of illegal gambling in 2022.

Last year, the MGCB, along with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and state law enforcement, confiscated 373 illegal gaming machines. Also, 17 individuals receiving criminal convictions.

“We plan to continue to address illegal gambling in Michigan in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Attorney General and other law enforcement agencies across the state,” MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams said in February.

How illegal gambling impacts you

Illegal gambling is a concern for consumers in Michigan for a variety of reasons.

Unregulated online casinos are not accountable under the law for providing fair games of chance. Also, consumers that gamble illegally also cannot ensure they will be paid if they win.

On a larger scale, illegal gambling also impacts Michgan’s tax revenue. Unregulated and unlicensed gambling operators don’t return any revenue to the state.

In 2022, through retail and online gambling Michigan generated over $679 million in tax revenue for state and local entities.

Notably, that tax revenue helps schools, first responders and other funds throughout the state.

The MGCB encourages Michigan citizens to report suspicious or illegal gambling activity. You can do so by calling its 24-hour anonymous tip line at (888) 314-2682.

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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in Michigan with an emphasis on online casino, online sports betting and horse racing sectors. He is currently reporting on the gambling industries in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Canada.

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