Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine: Regulate Internet cafes
Local governments are looking to the state for guidance on the legality of Internet sweepstakes cafes.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released a statement Thursday calling for the businesses to be regulated statewide.
While there is no exact definition of a sweepstakes or Internet cafe, they are largely known for selling time cards, or phone cards, for customers to use to gamble or play games online to be entered into sweepstakes through the business.
According to DeWine’s statement, state Reps. Nan Baker, R-Westlake, and Marlene Anielski, R-Walton Hills, are sponsoring legislation to regulate the businesses.
“Internet cafes and sweepstakes that are skirting the law are growing in many of our communities,” DeWine said. “By establishing oversight of these previously unregulated games, law enforcement, consumers and charities can all operate in a more fair environment.”
The proposal calls for the machines used at the businesses to go through a certification and licensing process to create transparency and accountability, the statement said.
A few of the businesses have popped up in Medina County and more have tried to get permits to operate.
Brunswick has three Internet cafes operating within city limits. The city also has a moratorium in place that allows the established businesses to continue operating but does not allow permits to be issued for new ones.
City Law Director Ken Fisher said he supports the attorney general’s opinion that the industry should be regulated and will be meeting with other city officials to determine how to move forward.
“Until that state statue is actually enacted, cities are more or less left to make their own interpretation,” Fisher said.
Ward 3 Councilman Joe Delsanter, who chairs Council’s Planning and Zoning Committee, has been leading the discussions about Internet cafes in Brunswick.
“Once I get the law director’s input, we’ll determine how to proceed locally, if we need to at all,” Delsanter said.
Wadsworth and Medina also have cafe moratoriums in effect.
Mayor Dennis Hanwell said Medina does not have any of the cafes operating in the city and was hoping the state would enact legislation before the moratorium expires in late May.
“I think they need to be regulated,” Hanwell said. “In my opinion, they appear to be in violation of the gambling statutes. If the state or court rules it is not gambling but can be regulated and fashioned in this or that way, obviously that gives us some guidance.”
He said it would have cost the city upward of $100,000 to pursue a case against one of the businesses under the gambling statute.
Hanwell said the other advantage to the attorney general’s opinion is it puts all local governments on the same page.
“I think it’s important that statewide it’s looked at under the same rules,” Hanwell said. “There’s a lot of advantage to having uniformity.”
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