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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2007

Ohio House GOP seeks to ban gaming devices


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- House Republicans are pursuing a statewide ban on electronic gaming devices regardless of the size of their jackpots.

GOP House Speaker Jon Husted, of Kettering, said simply outlawing all games of chance _ which have been cropping up virtually unchecked around the state _ is better than just restricting payouts, as Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and Attorney General Marc Dann recently proposed.

"I don't want to begin that process," Husted said Tuesday. "This back-door approach to opening up gambling is unacceptable to me. It opens up the corrupt underbelly of gambling, and I'm not for that."

Ohio passed a law in 2003 that banned slot machines, but allowed "skill-based amusement machines" whose outcomes aren't dictated "largely or wholly" by chance. Court interpretations of the law have led to complex distinctions between skill and chance that Dann contends have made enforcing the law nearly impossible.

For that reason, he and Strickland sought legislative support last week for the idea of limiting how much the machines can pay instead. Their plan would limit payouts to non-cash prizes worth no more than $10.

But Husted said such a proposal is tantamount to legalizing the machines statewide, because future legislatures could simply raise the prize caps written into the law.

It "basically legalizes these games and just limits what you can win, not what you can lose," he said.

Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican, did not commit Tuesday to whether he would support Husted's idea.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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