Schiavoni Wants Internet Cafe Measure on Ballot

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Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni, wants Ohio voters to decide whether Internet cafes should stay in business.

He introduced  a resolution in the senate on Monday calling for the placement of a ballot issue in November.  Depending on the vote, Ohio’s constitution would then be amended to either allow or ban the Internet cafes.

Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said in a statement that voters should be allowed to weigh in on the future of the cafes, just as they did several years ago when approving a ballot measure that allowed four casinos to be built in Ohio.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently started closing down Internet cafes on grounds that it’s illegal gambling. There are currently more than 800 unregulated Internet cafes in Ohio, including dozens in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Last week, the Ohio Senate introduced legislation that would ban Internet cafes. Republican Senate President Keith Faber introduced an emergency bill late Tuesday immediately halting any new Internet cafes and requiring operators of current ones to file new, more thorough affidavits with the state that include background information on the facilities’ true owners.

The GOP-controlled chamber only last week had signaled a bill limiting cash payouts from the cafes was still in trouble. The Ohio House sent two similar measures last year to the Senate, where they’d gotten bottled up in committee.

Faber’s announcement follows pleas by DeWine for legislative action, as well as a pivotal 8th District Court of Appeals ruling concluding the operations were obvious gambling schemes. DeWine, a fellow Republican, led a raid on six of the facilities in the Cleveland area last week in the wake of that ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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