Ohio moves toward virtual ban on Internet cafes

Ohio is moving toward shutting down hundreds of storefront gambling operations that have sprouted up in strip malls and vacant stores, offering computer games that operate like slot machines with cash prizes.
Associated Press
Dec 6, 2012


The Ohio House approved a proposal Wednesday that amounts to a virtual ban on the game parlors known as Internet cafes.

It's been nearly two years since lawmakers first began weighing what to do about these sweepstakes games that are largely unregulated and don't face the same scrutiny as casinos and other games of chance. Some favored new regulations while others wanted a ban on the Internet cafes.

"Internet cafes are simply gambling by another name," said Rep. Dennis Murray, a Democrat from Sandusky.

The bill, approved by a 2-to-1 margin in House, would shut down nearly all of the estimated 800 sites by narrowly defining what counts as a sweepstake.

Owners of the Internet cafes say the proposed legislation could mean the loss of as many as 5,000 jobs in Ohio.

Most of the operations are in the northern half of the state. Customers pay for Internet time or phone cards and use them to bet points on computers loaded with games such as poker. The businesses say they sell legitimate products with a chance to win a prize.

Rep. Kenny Yuko, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, said it was the wrong time to crack down on businesses that employ many people and generate tax money.

"Our cities get some valuable dollars that they're in desperate need of," he said.

Several cities have sought to close the sweepstakes cafes, only to lose in the courts.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has led the push to get rid of the businesses, saying there was no guarantee the games were fair and that there was no way to track where the money goes.

Some critics contend the winners are pre-determined. Others complain that they take money away from casinos and charities that offer gambling and are strictly regulated.

It's unclear whether the state Senate will approve the bill before the legislative session ends this year.

Senate President Tom Niehaus told reporters Wednesday that he planned to review the bill. "We're going to take a look at it," he said. "I don't know what's in it, but we are going to take a look at it."

Niehaus said a week ago that he was more inclined to favor regulation rather than an outright ban.

Charities and fraternal organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars that offer gambling and must give a share of their profits to charity have argued that the Internet cafes should at least play by the same rules.

William Seagraves, executive director of VFW of Ohio Charities, said Internet cafes been a big reason why the groups' charitable contributions from gambling have dropped from $6 million a year to $3.8 million since 2005.

"They kill us," he said. "They're just running wild. I'm hoping they get rid of them because it really hurts us."




I don't see any difference between these and the state run casino's other than the profit goes to the state to waste rather than the owner of the cafe's to spend on supporting their families. Also, it is much easier to go to a local place with $20.00 in your hand than drive to Cleveland or Toledo and waste hundreds. Another freedom gone.

Licorice Schtick

Putting a stop to this illegal blight is long overdue.


My ex-sister in law will commit harry-karry if they do this. She will be found in the parking lot by Drug Mart with a large knife at her belly screaming BONZI the day they shut the door on her favorite place....well Kath...its been real!


LOL. That was too funny. Thank you for the laugh today. I am sure your sister in law won't be alone in her quest.


you're very welcome. I am sure she won't. I have seen people looking over their shoulders while they sneak inside. Even a local RTA bus driver who was probably on his break the other night. He parked down the lot and ran in. LOL. Got to have their fix, ya know.

Me, never been inside one. I did some gambling at the Tribal Casino's in Tucson, AZ. Now there is an interesting place to go if you're ever in Tucson. You can actually win there, but not a lot. They treat you nice, too. But not a lot of liquor. LOL. Hope you like strong coffee or tea and lots of sodas. I once gambled for 10 hours on $10.00. LOL


You are not responsible enough to spend your money the way we see fit, So we will just raise taxes on you all and take the extra money and spend it the way WE see fit. Thank you big government!

Dark Passenger

I never been to one before but shutting them down would just put people out on the street. People need jobs in hard times like this and that money goes back into our community anyways. Uncle Sam always has his hands out so why can't the people? And I realize some people just hang out in them all day but some others who make wise choices that do have extra money and want to have some fun should have the right to do so.

The Bizness

Remember this is an Ohio issue so this is not good ol Uncle Sam doing it.


Must be getting in the way of lotto sales . . . .



"But Murray said he voted “yes” because Ohioans have specifically limited gambling in the state constitution. “Internet cafes are simply gambling by another name. For me, the issue is that simple.”


Randy, it's Republicans in Columbus who want to shut it down. I'm surprised that you're complaining, given that fact.

For anyone interested, the correct spellings are 'harakiri' and 'banzai'.

Darwin's choice

Actually, the correct spelling is: Sortero, Barry.


I do not care what party is doing it, Unlike you, I am not biased and let one side slide because i like the canidate. Really it should not be suprising to you at all, I didnt like bush or Bush 2.5(Obama) Same policys between them so i am suprised you dont like Bush.


The State should have just legalized gambling state wide. Problem solved and then they could regulate and tax it the way they want.


coasterfan: You're right, it's Republicans (in the main), aka "the morality police." But Democrats are (or will be) on board, because they're busy playing "Big Mother" to all of those stupid citizens who are too dumb to know what they want to do for entertainment.

I agree with everybody everywhere who thinks it's past time for a major third party in politics. The Libertarians have a lot to recommend them as does the Constitution Party. But the Libertarian views on the military and immigration are dead wrong and would prove damaging, while the Constitution Party is actually racing ahead of the Republicans playing "morality police." Anybody else up for the formation of the, I don't know, "Leave Us The Heck Alone and Stop Stealing So Much of Our Hard-Earned Money" Party?


+1000 on that idea.

BW1's picture

Exactly what is wrong with the Libertarians' position on the military and immigration?