By Marc Kovac
The Ohio Senate has moved legislation to extend a moratorium on the opening of new sweepstakes parlors and institute fines for businesses that fail to meet updated registration requirements.
The unanimous vote Wednesday came less than a week after the introduction of the legislation, with comparable quick action expected in the Ohio House, where it heads for further consideration.
“We need to extend this moratorium to make it clear that we don’t wish to have new gaming facilities on every single street corner across Ohio,” said Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina), the primary sponsor of the measure.
Senate Bill 115 would extend a moratorium in place on the opening of Internet cafes by one additional year, pushing it back to July 1, 2014.
It also would require existing parlors to file new affidavits with the attorney general’s office that includes the owners’ names and the date they opened.
Storefronts that fail to meet the registration requirements could face fines of up to $1,000 for each day they are found to be in violation, and criminal penalties could be possible if the businesses provide false information on their affidavits.
The legislation passed the Senate with an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect as soon as it is signed into law.
The bill is separate from legislation passed earlier by the Ohio House that would ban cash payouts or merchandize prizes worth more than $10, with additional language added to ensure other businesses could continue to offer sweepstakes contests.
The law changes are supported by Attorney General Mike DeWine, who has said they would effectively shutter most of the businesses.
Faber indicated last week that the Senate would act on legislation to ban sweepstakes parlors before the end of the month.
Supporters believe the legislation will stop unregulated gambling and potential illicit activities that sometimes come with such establishments.
But parlor owners and some Republican lawmakers have countered that the proposed law changes would hurt legitimate business enterprises and potentially cost the state thousands of jobs.