COLUMBUS, OH -- Ohio is the next state that wants to put Internet sweepstakes cafés out of business, and as soon as possible. Both sides of the state Legislature have passed House Bill 7, designed to shut down Internet cafés in Ohio by limiting payouts from sweepstakes machines to $10, which is not much of an incentive for patrons.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, supporters of the bill have argued that the more than 600 storefronts operating throughout Ohio are conducting illegal gambling operations. Law enforcement officials say these mostly cash operations would be impossible to regulate. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said in the past that some of the cafés are allegedly home to other illegal activity like money laundering.
Sweepstakes operators and some municipal tax collectors have contended that the state should regulate the storefronts, rather than close them down.
The Ohio House introduced the bill in January, and it was approved 27-6 by the Senate on May 22. Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign it.
Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) has hinted that talks will begin on consolidating all gambling oversight -- lottery, charitable gaming, casinos, horseracing -- under the Casino Control Commission.
Other states have shut down sweepstakes cafés, including North Carolina, Mississippi, and most recently, Florida. California is considering legislation that would outlaw the now-ubiquitous storefront parlors. In Florida, amusement operations with no ties to gambling -- from Dave and Buster's and Chuck E. Cheese's to average route businesses running cranes -- could be in conflict with the new anti-sweepstakes law. In related news, the AARP recently blocked residents of Florida from entering any sweepstakes-based promotions, in direct response to the law.