COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed legislation Tuesday that halts the expansion of Internet cafes where patrons buy cards for phone and Internet time with chances to play computer games that operate like slot machines with cash prizes.
The measure extends a moratorium on any new cafes and requires those currently in operation to submit new affidavits to the state.
More than 620 Internet cafes are in operation across the state, representing growing competition to legalized casinos and games held for charity. There are five in Columbiana County, 37 in Mahoning County and 47 in Trumbull County, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Proponents have strenuously disagreed that Internet cafes are operating legally, a position intermittently undercut by the courts. While acknowledging the existence of “a few bad actors,” they describe most of the cafes as harmless mom-and-pop businesses that are doing nothing wrong.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has taken the position that the cafes are illegal gambling operations and recently stepped up his own crackdown out of frustration at a lack of legislative action.
He has sued three facilities that failed to file affidavits after the 2012 moratorium took effect and staged raids of facilities in Cuyahoga and Richland counties. The push to prosecute led to indictments against 11 people and eight companies in northeast Ohio last month.
DeWine joined other top state law enforcers at a pivotal caucus meeting in April with Senate Republicans that helped reverse members’ earlier opposition.
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