LANCASTER – Deputies from the sheriff’s Lancaster Station Thursday afternoon raided five Internet casinos, posing as Internet cafes, and detained several people in what was believed to be the first such illegal gambling busts in Los Angeles County.

Deputy Jordan Lance said the locations billed themselves as Internet cafes where customers could go check their e-mail or their Facebook accounts, but in this case the emphasis was on “Vegas style” gambling.

The major such casino was at 1015 W. Avenue I, Lance said, and simply had the name “Internet” on the door.

Lance said that the casinos “opened up as Internet cafe, that’s how they got business licenses, as if they were only selling Internet time. But that’s only a front for the operation. Ninety percent of their business is what they call sweepstakes.

The way it operates, he said, is that the customer pays cash for credits to play Vegas style slot or casino games on the computers. Players are given a pin number and at the end of the gaming collect whatever winnings they have accumulated or forfeit the deposit for losses.

Lance said that deputies were originally alerted to the Internet casinos because of complaints from nearby businesses about alleged drugs and gang members at the storefronts.

Undercover deputies were sent in to gather evidence, Lance said.

He said that  search warrants were served on all five locations at about 1 p.m. today and that several people were detained.

Lance said that at the one location on West Avenue I, one customer was arrested for narcotics and a wanted parolee was taken into custody.

Four people were arrested at that location and thousands of dollars were seized, he said.

Lance said that although he believed these were the first such arrests in Los Angeles County, the problem has been popping up around the country.

Similar casinos were busted in Hesperia and others in the San Diego area.

“We’re also waiting to get in touch with the owners who did not choose to come in,” Lance said.

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