The sign outside promises jackpots of $100,000. The games inside carry names like Powerbomb Keno, Classic 7’s and Texas Treasures.
But walk inside Eric Fante’s and Chris Carvell’s storefront in South Philadelphia, and you’ll be asked to sign a waiver stating that you aren’t gambling.
Tell that to Sable Jones, who says she has spent every day for the past week at the pair’s Internet Sweepstakes Café.
“I’ve never gambled this much in my life,” Jones said.
Wait. Isn’t gambling illegal?
“Obviously,” Carvell said, “it’s a loophole. But it’s within the law.”
Whatever it is, it’s a new business model popping up across the United States. Like the store run by Fante and Carvell, they are called Internet sweepstakes cafés. Fante’s business, tucked in a rundown strip mall between a liquor store and Meineke brake shop, may be unique to Philadelphia. But there are more than a dozen in Pennsylvania. Florida may have more than 1,000. Wherever they are, they operate in strip malls, often near low-income areas.