Michigan officials shut down Golden Hearts Games Inc. As of Sept. 1, the free-to-play social casino that claims games support charity was no longer operating in the Wolverine State.
Bonus attempted to sign up for a Golden Hearts Games account using a Michigan ZIP Code to test the shutdown.
The Golden Hearts sign-up page told Bonus today:
We’re sorry, but at the current time, we do not allow participation from the state of Michigan. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Yet there were no notices on the Boston-based company’s social accounts informing Michiganders of the change. Since Sept. 1, the Golden Hearts Games Facebook page, with 22,000 followers, only housed posts promoting the social games. Its Instagram and X accounts have fewer followers and contain identical posts.
So, Tuesday’s press release from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is the primary source of information about the shutdown. She said she shuttered “the illegal Michigan operations” of Golden Hearts Games through her office’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED).
Nessel said she did so because the company had been live in Michigan without approval from the state’s regulator, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).
So the games that promise players can win more than $50,000 a day when they “redeem sweeps coins won for real cash” are gone from Michigan.
What Happened to the Charitable Donations?
The Golden Hearts Games sites contain no explanation for Michiganders. Also, the company’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Kane, had no statement about the shutdown on his LinkedIn account, which was the contact information he provided on the company’s corporate site.
So Michigan players who think they gave to charity by playing on the variation on sweeps casinos where currency purchases involve a charitable donation may have to trust the corporate site’s statement.
The Golden Hearts corporate site says:
We’ve already processed $20+ million [in] donations, distributed to 59,000+ nonprofits from 91,000+ donors.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) shows the Golden Hearts Games Foundation and the company’s chosen charitable distribution arm, Givinga Foundation Inc., are nonprofits. (Even nonprofits need to file with the IRS. For instance, here are the informational forms from Doctors Without Borders.)
Charity Begins at Home, Michigan Officials Say
Channeling the late British clergyman Thomas Fuller‘s proverb, “Charity begins at home,” Nessel said in the press release:
Unlicensed gaming robs our schools and our government of essential funding and leaves consumers unprotected. 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.
Michigan gaming regulators began investigating Golden Hearts Games in August 2021. They found the company, founded in 2019, was conducting activity that “constituted illegal gaming, as they did not hold a license to offer gaming in the state of Michigan.”
Nessel’s statement reads:
In 2022, the Department of Attorney General issued a cease-and-desist letter to Golden Hearts advising that it was illegally operating. Despite the letter, Golden Hearts continued to offer its gaming product to Michigan residents.
Golden Hearts Games was less than charitable about shutting down. So Nessel’s office notified the company that under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, her office would file a lawsuit against it in state court for allegedly violating the Lawful Internet Gaming Act.
That’s when Golden Hearts representatives agreed to stop operating in Michigan. On Sept. 1, they signed an Assurance of Discontinuance filed in the Ingham County Circuit Court.