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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 11, November 2010, Posted On: 10/20/2010

Ohio Supreme Court Upholds $10 Limit For Skill Game Prizes

Marcus Webb
Ohio Coin Machine Operators Association, amusement machine operator, coin machine, amusement games with prize, coin machine with prize, crane machine, Ohio Supreme Court, Pickaway County Skilled Gaming LLC, Stephen S. Cline, Spinners arcade, Circleville Ohio

COLUMBUS, OH -- Limiting the value of prizes offered for winners of skill games is legal under both the Ohio and U.S. constitutions, the Ohio Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling on Oct. 12.

As a result, some operators said they might decide to remove from Ohio locations any machines -- including amusement venders and skill cranes -- that award prizes worth more than $10. Other operators said the ruling should not impact their business.

Some Ohio operators expressed hope that a lower court, revisiting the case on orders from the Ohio Supreme Court, may eventually void the prize value limit due to excessive vagueness.

The plaintiff in the case was Pickaway County Skilled Gaming LLC and Stephen S. Cline, owners of the Spinners arcade in Circleville. At issue was a 2007 amendment to a state antigambling code (R.C. Chapter 2915).

The 2007 amendment classified some machines as illegal "schemes of chance" or gambling equipment while protecting other devices as legal skill-based amusements. The amendment also said operators may award merchandise or vouchers worth only $10 or less for a single play of skill-based amusement machines.

Soon after passage of the amendment, Spinners' owners filed in county court for a declaratory judgment that the $10 limit was unconstitutional. The suit also sought a permanent injunction against enforcement by the state Attorney General.

Spinners lost at the county level, but appealed and won in the 10th District Court of Appeals. The judges at that level agreed with plaintiffs that the amendment was unconstitutional because it violated equal protection clauses of the state and U.S. constitutions.

The 2007 amendment was intended to eliminate slot-style games that had proliferated across the Buckeye State. But according to the Ohio Coin Machine Operators Association, the law was drafted and passed with such haste that it could be interpreted to apply to many more types of machines.

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