Township prohibits Internet sweepstakes cafes
LIBERTY TWP. — The Liberty Twp. moratorium on issuing zoning certificates to Internet gambling businesses has now become law.
Trustees voted unanimously Monday night to approve an amendment to the township’s zoning laws effectively prohibiting “Internet Sweepstakes Café” establishments from obtaining zoning certificates and opening in the township.
Internet sweepstakes cafés have recently come under fire from the Ohio Attorney General, who is investigating whether the games the businesses provide are gambling or just for amusement. The businesses sell prepaid phone cards or Internet time cards allowing customers to enter a sweepstakes system at a computer in the business. Customers can then use the card to enter games on the computer where they can win prizes.
The businesses differ from regular Internet cafés that charge a fee for computer use but offer no such sweepstakes offers and also typically offer drinks and snacks for purchase.
The moratorium was declared in February by trustees, suspending the issuance of certificates to such businesses until research was conducted into how the businesses operate and how zoning laws would apply to them.
Research by the trustees found that the businesses may tend to increase crime rates, contribute to financial hardships for low-income customers and have a negative effect on property values, according to the resolution.
“The Board of Trustees finds all of means of regulation, such as taxation, licensing, hours of operation, locational restrictions, rezoning, etc., ineffective to combat the adverse effects of Internet sweepstakes establishments,” the resolution read.
Dan Acton, a representative for a local real estate management company — Acton declined to name his client — requested the trustees consider extending the moratorium until a decision on the businesses was reached by the state attorney general’s office at Monday’s third and final public hearing on the subject.
Acton also said he didn’t understand the trustee’s position on such businesses, which he said are legal and proper, bringing potential problems to the township.
“If you can’t find a body shop, mechanic, a strip club or anything else that hasn’t had issues in the state, that you don’t think should be regulated or not prohibited, then I’m almost speechless,” Acton said.
Approval of the amendment is the right thing to do, said Trustee David Kern.
“There is no greater free market advocate than I but I am charged to do what I think is in the best interests of the township,” Kern said. “I truly believe it is in the best interests of the township to not allow us to be an experimental ground.”
Monday’s meeting also brought news that three businesses — Han’s White Tiger Tae Kwon Do, Lunatic Fringe Salon and Baxter Home Solutions — have announced plans to open in the township, said Caroline McKinney, township economic development director and public information officer.
The announcement follows on the heels of two ribbon cuttings held in June for the newly-opened Smoothie King and Hodapp Funeral Home, in addition to the grand opening for the Carriage Hill housing development, McKinney said.
Trustee’s also approved a measure Monday night allowing the refinancing of $909,000 of the township’s 2011 building bonds.
The refinancing allows the township to save approximately $7,000 a year for the next 10 years in interest it would have paid on the bonds, said Pamela Quinlisk, township fiscal officer.
In other business, trustees unanimously approved resolutions entering the township into an agreement with investment company Morgan Stanley Smith Barney for investment management services and appointing the 2011 Ohio Division I state baseball champion Lakota East High School Thunderhawks varsity baseball team as the Grand Marshal for the township’s 2011 Fourth of July Parade.
Trustee’s went into executive session after the public portion of the meeting to discuss compensation for public employees in the township.
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