Local law directors ready to pull the plug on gambling machines

Local law enforcement agencies are still unsure what to do with slot machine-like electronic games recently declared illegal by stat
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Local law enforcement agencies are still unsure what to do with slot machine-like electronic games recently declared illegal by state lawmakers.

Gov. Ted Strickland signed a bill Oct. 25 that makes games that award prizes worth more than $10 illegal in Ohio.

Law directors in Sandusky and Norwalk are still reading through the new law and deciding how to deal with businesses in their cities that operate these machines.

"I haven't had a chance to meet with our police chief about it," Sandusky law director Don Icsman said Thursday. "I think I told one of the detectives to give (county prosecutor Kevin Baxter) a call to see if there was some consistent way he wanted us to be doing this."

The new gambling law could be bad news for local businesses that run the machines, such as David Pugh's Spin-to-Win locations in Huron and Norwalk.

Pugh was already fighting Norwalk officials for the right to operate his business before the new law was passed. At that time, Ohio courts determined Spin-to-Win's electronic Tic-Tac-Fruit games were not the same as gambling.

But Norwalk Law Director Stu O'Hara said the location of Pugh's business violated city zoning laws, so police cited it for nearly every day it was open.

Pugh sued the city and a Toledo court judge ordered in September that no further punishment be taken against Spin-to-Win until the lawsuit was settled.

But O'Hara says thanks to the new law, Norwalk can shut down Spin-to-Win anytime it wants to, unless there's some special exception.

"The possession of these items if they are illegal is the same as possession of criminal tools," he said Wednesday. "I know (the bill) has some exceptions to it. I want to see what it says first."

Sandusky police received a complaint Thursday about gambling machines being operated and tip tickets being sold at E&B Pub and Grub in Sandusky.

Assistant Chief Charlie Sams said the department takes these types of complaints on a case-by-case basis and will talk with prosecutors before issuing charges.

"We'll take whatever action the prosecutor authorizes us to do," he said.