Illegal Charity-Based Sweepstakes iCasino Agrees to Cease Operations in Michigan



  • On Tuesday, September 12, the Michigan Attorney General announced that Golden Hearts Games has agreed to cease operations immediately.
  • Golden Hearts Games was a sweepstakes and charitable gaming mobile casino operating in the state without a valid license.
  • This final closure comes after Golden Hearts Games ignored a cease-and-desist letter issued by the Department of Attorney General in 2022.

Not all illegal gambling sites are malicious on the face of it. Some operate as charitable and social gaming casinos which may not raise eyebrows from most players. But without a license from relevant authorities, the activities of these casinos are unregulated at best, and illegal at worst.

One of such gambling platforms was Golden Hearts Games, an online sweepstakes and charitable gaming casino that was recently shut down by the office of the Michigan Attorney General. The Massachusetts-based casino platform will stop providing its services to Michigan residents after signing an Assurance of Discontinuance filed at an Ingham court.

Golden Hearts Games Had Been on the Radar of the MGCB Since 2021

The MGCB was the first to launch an investigation into the operations of Golden Hearts Games as early as in August 2021. From the investigation, the regulator discovered that the gambling site, though based in Massachusetts, did not hold a valid license in Michigan. Subsequently, the Department of Attorney General took over proceedings and issued a cease-and-desist letter to Golden Hearts Games in 2022.

In disregard of the letter, Golden Hearts Games continued offering services to Michigan residents. According to the Golden Hearts website available to Michigan residents, the casino supported charity with players’ deposits. When customers win on games, they are offered sweep coins that could be redeemed for cash or gift cards.

The website reads:

“At Golden Hearts Games you can redeem your prizes for cash AND support your favorite charity! YOU keep the prizes! Our community members cash out tens of thousands of dollars every day, playing their favorite online casino-style games including slots, scratch cards, and more! Always fast, no-hassle payments for winners.”

“All donations go to the Golden Hearts Charitable Foundation (EIN: 86-3294297), a U.S. 501(c)(3) public charity, which then makes grants to each individual donor’s selected charity. Donations may be tax-deductible to U.S. residents. No purchase or donation of any kind is necessary to participate or win. A purchase or donation will not increase your chances of winning.”

Attorney General Assures Michigan Residents of a Highly Regulated Industry

After numerous attempts to cause the gambling brand to stop operations in the state, the Attorney General’s office moved to sue Golden Hearts. The casino was charged with deceiving Michigan residents into believing they were gambling legally. The Department of Attorney General also brought action under the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

“Unlicensed gaming robs our schools and our government of essential funding and leaves consumers unprotected,” Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Attorney General said in a press release. “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.”

On September 1, the Department filed an Assurance of Discontinuance signed by Golden Hearts Games at an Ingham County Circuit Court. This document guaranteed that Golden Hearts would no longer offer its casino services to Michiganders.

The press release from the Department of Attorney General further read as follows:

“Golden Hearts’ decision to sign an Assurance of Discontinuance is the culmination of the Department of Attorney General’s collaboration with MGCB to hold accountable individuals who try to take advantage of Michigan consumers by offering unregulated and unlicensed gaming. Michigan’s Lawful Internet Gaming Act imposes stringent standards on those who are both eligible and suitable for licensure. The highly regulated industry ensures that Michigan residents are offered fair and honest gaming.”

MGCB Holds Meeting with Flint Area Officials to Tackle Illegal Gambling in the Area

At the rate in which Michigan gambling is growing, it would take a concerted effort by stakeholders to ensure that legal platforms aren’t run over by unlicensed gaming outlets. Over the past two years, the Flint area has been home to the biggest illegal gambling crackdown in Michigan. This year, a Flint police chief pleaded no contest to counts of managing an illegal gambling arcade while the Cellular Vault was raided twice in 12 months for unlicensed gaming activities.

So, it was no surprise that the MGCB took out time in the days leading up to Responsible Gaming Education month to hold talks with Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Rep. Cynthia Neeley, two important Flint officials. According to an MGCB press release, they discussed “strategies to help deter and crack down on illegal gaming operations in the city.”

The MGCB Director looked forward to the cooperation of the city area’s stakeholders and stressed the importance of face-to-face conversations. Mayor Neeley also commended the work of the Board and promised to advance important changes to the Michigan legislature.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments