The list of gaming-adjacent operators facing mounting pressure from states as to the legality of their sites continues to grow. On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a notice that she has pushed Golden Hearts Games, a charity-focused sweepstakes casino, out of the state.
Working in tandem with the Michigan Gaming Control Board, Nessel’s office started investigating the Massachusetts-based company two years ago. In 2022, the office sent Golden Hearts a cease and desist, which the company allegedly ignored.
Per Golden Hearts Games’s website, the site is available in all US states to those over the age of 18, however, the state age minimums do vary.
Essentially, Golden Heart takes elements of both sweepstakes casinos and charitable gaming to create a product. Users can donate to a wide range of 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and receive sweepstakes coins to play online casino games. Should users win, they can then cash a secondary form of currency (also called sweepstakes coins) to cash out as real US dollars.
Interestingly, other sweepstakes casinos such as Luckyland Casino and Chumba Casino are legal in Michigan.
“Unlicensed gaming robs our schools and our government of essential funding and leaves consumers unprotected,” Nessel said. “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,” said Nessel.
The AG’s office has told Golden Hearts its position is that the company is operating illegally as an unlicensed casino in the state. Michigan is one of a handful of states with legalized and regulated real-money online casinos.
Nessel’s team has threatened to sue the company under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act if it did not pull out of the state, which Golden Hearts Gaming has agreed to do. The company signed an Assurance of Discontinuance that was filed with the state on Sept. 1.
Sweepstakes casinos and sportsbooks are a growing category but, like Fliff and Golden Hearts Gaming have shown, there are risks that vary from state to state in terms of how these organizations are perceived from a legal perspective.