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Published: Friday, 10/26/2007

Games of chance that appear like slots now illegal in Ohio

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

COLUMBUS - Slotslike gambling machines that have proliferated throughout the state as a result of a loophole in gambling law are now illegal, resulting in a warning from Toledo that the machines will be confiscated.

Gov. Ted Strickland yesterday signed into law a bill that strengthens the definition of the "skill-based" machines that are legal, bans cash payouts, and limits noncash prizes from such games to $10.

The bill contained an emergency clause that made the law effective as soon as the governor signed it.

The measure was passed swiftly in both the Senate and House in recent weeks over objections that lawmakers rushed it through without any chance for public comment.

Games based on chance are illegal in Ohio. The new law is intended to shut down machines such as Tic Tac Fruit that depend on chance but require a certain level of skill.

Lawmakers said the update was needed because machines took advantage of a law that banned machines based largely or wholly on chance.

The new law will not apply to darts, billiards, and bowling, but lawmakers disagreed over what kind of impact overall the law would have on the gaming industry.

Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said officers will confiscate the machines if people are found in violation of the law.

The law makes it illegal for bars and fraternal and veteran groups to offer cash payouts of any amount or noncash prizes worth more than $10 for machines such as Tic Tac Fruit.

Chief Navarre said the games are very popular in Toledo and are usually found in bars.

"If they bought the machines, they'll be out of some money," he said.

"Whether you're an advocate or opponent of gambling, the current law in Ohio prohibits it."

The chief said he thought the games were illegal when they first started appearing in Toledo-area bars a few years ago.

But because they were being sold and advertised as games of skill, they were not considered a form of gambling under the previous law, Chief Navarre said.

"We were put on hold for a few years until this [issue] could get ironed out at the state level," he said.



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