By James Niedzinski
---- — DANVERS — Seven months after state and local police shut down their arcades in Gloucester and Danvers, Lucky 7 proprietors Sam and Rosalie Parisi were surrounded by friends and family yesterday as their attorney relayed the charges now filed by the state attorney general’s office at Gloucester District Court.
The Parisis and their attorney, John Swomley of the Boston-based firm Swomley & Tennen LLP, appeared briefly in court with Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ralph, the head of the attorney general’s office’s Cyber Crime Division.
The only topic discussed was arranging a pre-trial date, which is set for March 24. Swomley declined to comment on the legal proceedings.
According to the attorney general’s office, Lucky 7 Arcade LLC is facing one charge of unlawful operation of a game or gaming device and one charge of organizing or promoting a lottery.
The company is the only defendant in the case. None of the Parisis is criminally charged individually; Rosalie is listed as the manager of the company, while her daughter, Jeannine, had been running the Gloucester facility.
On June 11, state and local authorities abruptly froze the family-owned corporation’s bank accounts and seized motherboards, computers and gift cards in both Lucky 7 arcades — at the original site on Rogers Street in Gloucester and at the arcade’s Liberty Tree Mall location in Danvers, which had opened less than a year earlier.
The arcades allowed a customer to pay to play Lucky 7’s computerized games, to win games on the machines and, after accumulating enough points, to redeem them for gift cards to local restaurants and other businesses. The arcades and their games, however, did not pay off in cash.
An affidavit released last summer detailed a six-month investigation by undercover state troopers.
In the warrant applications, an FBI forensic examiner determined that there was no skill involved in games at the Lucky 7, and that the machines themselves are programmed to prevent the player from having any affect on the outcome of the game.
At the time, investigators suggested that, even if the games did involve skill, they would still be illegal as parts of the state’s gaming law do not allow gaming machines that provide cash or prizes of value.
The Lucky 7 case is not the first time the state has cracked down on Internet cafes.
Owners of Internet cafes have been tried and found guilty in both civil and criminal cases in 2013 and 2012, according to various statements and releases from the attorney general’s office.
In 2012, Gov. Deval Patrick signed off on an amended law from 2010 that outlawed owning or operating electronic gaming machines that meet certain criteria. Some of those criteria included slot machines, server-based games that have someone select prizes from a finite pool of entries, or require the customer to deposit money, tokens, coins or credit, debit and phone cards.
The Parisis’ attorneys, however, have argued that the AG’s reach into the Lucky 7 operations is a misuse of the state’s law, and the Parisis — when looking into opening their Danvers facility — had the backing of state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who said in October 2012 the arcade was in full compliance with the law. Tarr also praised Lucky 7 and the Parisis for boosting the local economy for promoting other businesses through the gift-card prizes.
Attorney Eric Tennen, also with Swomley and Tennen LLP, had written previously to the Parisis that it was “plainly obvious” that the state Legislature did not intend to criminalize what was already legal — such as the computer games at establishments such as Chuck E. Cheese’s or Dave and Busters.
Those establishments allow a customer to exchange money for tokens, which are then used to play games. The games award tickets, and those tickets are then cashed in for prizes.
A conviction on a charge of operating a game or gaming device comes with a state prison term of up to five years, a jail term of up to 21/2 years, a fine of up to $25,000, or a combination of all.
Organizing or promoting a lottery meanwhile comes with a $1,000 fine, up to a year in a house of correction, or both.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-675-2708 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.