Sacramento, California - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today filed a lawsuit against Pong Marketing & Promotions Inc., a major sweepstakes gambling software provider, for illegal gambling in violation of state criminal and unfair competition laws. In the suit, filed in Solano County Superior Court, Attorney General Harris seeks injunctive relief and penalties of approximately $10 million.
Pong, a company based in Canada, provided software to sweepstakes cafes throughout California. These cafes operate as mini-casinos, offering interactive gambling-themed games on computer gambling devices, which they market to a predominantly vulnerable, low-income clientele. The California Supreme Court ruled that these machines are illegal gambling devices in violation of California Penal Code section 330b. Pong then abandoned its sweepstakes model, changing its software to a purported skill-based system, retaining the gambling devices and having players redeem cash prizes by executing the “skill” of clicking a mouse to stop a moving cursor before the time expires.
“When casinos are allowed to masquerade as cafes in our neighborhoods, it both deceives consumers and undermines public safety,” said Attorney General Harris. “Software providers who misrepresent their games as lawful must be held accountable for their role in facilitating criminal activity. I thank our law enforcement partners across the state for their efforts to shut down these illegal gambling operations.”
Sweepstakes gambling enterprises are a major problem nationwide, estimated to earn over $10 billion a year. In California, Attorney General Harris has pioneered the use of the Unfair Competition Law to provide stronger monetary remedies against these operators.
The Attorney General’s office works in tandem with local law enforcement agencies across California as part of the Sweepstakes Gambling Task Force to dismantle illegal gambling operations. The Sweepstakes Gambling Task Force includes the California Attorney General’s Office, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp, Kern County District Attorney Lisa S. Green, Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II, Riverside County District Attorney Michael A. Hestrin, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill R. Ravitch, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.