Death knell for Internet cafes

As if opponents of Ohio’s seedy network of 800 Internet cafes did not already have enough ammunition in their arsenals to fire at state legislators, along comes an investigation that should seal the deal of doom on these unconstitutional sweepstakes parlors.

An Ohio newspaper probe revealed last week that most Ohio Internet cafes provided incomplete information to the state secretary of state’s office, and many of the businesses’ operators who could be identified have spotty financial backgrounds or criminal histories.

Now that regulations that some say would force Internet cafes out of business are likely for a vote in the Ohio House as early as this week, the new revelations should spur legislators to act quickly and decisively in support of House Bill 7. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, would limit prize payouts at the sweepstakes parlors to $10 a day, a provision essentially intended to drive them out of business.


A moratorium on new Internet cafes in Ohio expires June 30. Therefore it’s incumbent on the General Assembly to act expeditiously. Just in case anyone has forgotten, numerous other logical reasons explain why such extreme regulation is needed and needed now:

Internet cafes lack all consumer protections that regulated gambling offers. Cafe owners and employees are not subject to background checks, games aren’t checked for integrity and fairness, and there are no gaming taxes .

Internet cafes divert money from churches and fraternal organizations that operate bingo and other forms of legal gambling. These groups are strictly regulated and are required to give part of their proceeds to charity.

The operation of Internet cafes violates the Ohio Constitution, which specifically prohibits gambling except for those that are state-regulated, such as the Ohio Lottery, casinos and racinos.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a longtime foe of storefront gambling, likens Internet cafe shenanigans to “The Wild, Wild West.” The Ohio General Assembly can best tame this out-of-control beast that preys on the poorest of Ohio’s population by adopting Huffman’s responsible legislation by the Easter recess.

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