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The arrest of four executives managing a software development company in Haltom, Texas could indicate a change of tactics by enforcement authorities trying to stamp out online sweepstakes style gambling in internet cafes.

It may presage a new targeting approach that widens the scope for possible prosecutions to software providers as well as internet cafe operators.

Arrested Friday at the HEST Technologies offices in the Fort Worth suburb were company president Chris Canard (44), his wife Shannon (41), Robert Houchin Jr. (36) and Andrea Geist (53). Bail ranging from $4,500 to $28,000 was set for each, with charges of involvement in illegal gambling activities.

The Associated Press news agency reported that officials from the Texas Attorney General’s Office executed search warrants at the company’s headquarters and the homes of five executives.

A spokesman said that those arrested face felony gambling, money laundering and organised criminal activity charges.

HEST Technologies develops promotional systems for sweepstakes cafes, Internet cafes and non-profits, but enforcement officials allege that the company’s “sweepstakes” systems constitute illegal gambling devices by claiming to sell a lawful service, such as time at an Internet cafe, in order to induce people to gamble.

Enforcement spokesmen said that the joint investigation was led by the Texas Attorney General’s Office,  the Anderson County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, and the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. A trial date has yet to be set.

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