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Issue Date: Vol. 51, No. 4, April 2011, Posted On: 3/24/2011

Ohio Seeks Crackdown On Sweepstakes Videogames

Marcus Webb
Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ohio Internet sweepstakes videogames and cafés, Nan Baker, Marlene Anielski, prize reward games, gaming machines, coin machine business, amusement business, game operator, Ohio Casino Control Commission, JoAnne Davidson

COLUMBUS, OH -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is working with two state representatives to draft a new law to regulate Internet sweepstakes videogames and cafés in the Buckeye State.

Ohio's top law enforcement official called sweepstakes videos a "threat to Ohio families" and a "rip-off of Ohio consumers." Leaving the market unregulated would turn Ohio into the "wild, wild west," said DeWine, who revealed his plans for a new legislation during a March 17 press conference.

Under the proposal that will be introduced by Reps. Nan Baker (R-Westlake) and Marlene Anielski (R-Walton), Internet sweepstakes games would come under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which is headed by former Ohio Speaker of the House JoAnne Davidson.

The commission would examine games and license operators, while restricting the number of units on location to a maximum of five. Local jurisdictions would be able to opt out of allowing the games.

DeWine said the intent of the bill is to make it "very difficult but not impossible" for the sector to survive.

Under current Ohio law, skill-based amusement machines are permitted, but are limited to noncash prizes with a wholesale value under $10. The state Supreme Court upheld that limit last October. | SEE STORY

DeWine said the proposed law would require operators to prove that they offer only "true games of skill."

It is unclear if DeWine's proposed regulation will confront the sweepstakes market head on. Videogames with cash prizes, as operated nationwide and in numerous cities across Ohio, do not award money based on gameplay, but on the outcome of a random drawing. Casino- or amusement-style gameplay is simply an entertainment feature prior to the award phase.

At least one Ohio judge has ruled that sweepstakes videogames are legal on that basis.

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