Ohio attorney general seeks strict regulations on Internet cafes


Associated Press

COLUMBUS

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is supporting a legislative proposal to regulate hundreds of Internet cafes and game parlors statewide that offer games that function like slot machines with cash prizes.

The proposal for the Ohio Casino Control Commission to regulate the so-called “sweepstakes” games and Internet cafes would limit the games to five per location and require operators to be licensed, The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday. Violators of the regulations could face criminal penalties, and the commission would be in charge of examining and certifying the games.

“There’s no law that was designed for them. They kind of morphed out of other ways of making money,” said DeWine, a Republican. “Every other form of legal gambling in this state is somehow regulated. This is not.”

At the gaming sites, whose names don’t usually reference gambling, customers pay for Internet time or phones cards and use them to bet points on computers loaded with games such as poker or slots. Winners can get cash or merchandise prizes, such as canned coffee or car wax. Sometimes the sites also offer business services, including regular Internet service, and food or drinks.

One investigator, whom the newspaper did not identify by name, said the games have been found all over the state — in strip malls, gas stations, large gaming rooms and even one woman’s living room at her home.

There are plenty of critics. State officials allege the winners are pre-determined, not based on skill, and advocates for the poor and for senior citizens worry about gaming facilities opening in transitional neighborhoods with vulnerable residents.

Read the full story Monday in The Vindicator and on Vindy.com.

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