Internet Cafes shut down to comply with new state law

House Bill 7, which became effective Friday, gives the Attorney General’s Office regulatory authority over sweepstakes terminal devices used by internet sweepstakes cafés.

“It restricts the business model under which an internet café could operate,” said Dan Tierney, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office. “Specifically, it limits the value of a prize to $10 and it prohibits prizes from being awarded in the form of cash, gift cards, lottery tickets, bingo, instant bingo, alcohol, tobacco, firearms or voucher for any of those items” he said.

The Dayton Daily News visited four cafes. Megabytes on North Main Street, Spin-N-Win Internet Café on Gettysburg Avenue and Lucky’s Internet Café on North Dixie Drive had closed signs posted at the entrance. Spin City Internet Sweepstakes had locked doors and appeared to have no activity going on inside. The Dayton Daily News could not reach the cafè owners for comment.

When asked what would happen if the Internet sweepstakes cafè owners continued to operate, Tierney, said, “The Attorney General’s office is ready to assist any local law enforcement agency in investigations they would take regarding illegal gaming at Internet cafes.” He added that besides the AG’s office, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation has independent authority to investigate allegations of such illegal gambling.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said he was pleased to see that these cafes were closing on their own. “I’ve always been against these because they were ripping off our citizens left and right,” he said. “They will be targets of investigations if they are operating illegally.”

There will be no statewide vote on the referendum anytime soon. The movement to get the issue on the November 2014ballot failed. “It would have been too late to get it even on this November ballot,” Tierney said. “If they would have qualified with the signatures, it would have been the November 2014 ballot.”

DeWine’s office is in the process of sending out letters to the internet cafés, alerting their owners of the new law, Tierney said.

In the meantime, DeWine’s office is looking into whether similar sweepstake terminals located at certain venues targeting veterans are legal. “What we have informed the groups that have those types of games is that we don’t think those machines are legal. However, we understand that the general assembly may be considering legislation to change that status,” Tierney said.

Café owners are currently required to file affidavits of existence with DeWine’s office. As of Monday, the state had approximately 350 Internet sweepstakes cafés, according to Tierney. In 2012, there were approximately 800 cafés.

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