COLUMBUS—The Ohio House today voted across party lines to severely restrict so-called Internet “sweepstakes” cafes while the Senate at the same time passed another controversial measure changing the rules in asbestos-related lawsuits.
The bills passed each other as the busy lame-duck General Assembly maneuvered to get priority legislation to Gov. John Kasich’s desk before lawmakers bring the two-year legislative session to a close next week.
House Bill 605, a bill which divided both Republicans and Democrats in the House, bans any cash payouts and places a $10 cap on the value of any other prize awarded from buying the long-distance phone cards that are used to play the electronic games at the cafes.
The state’s law enforcement agencies have argued that the cafes are taking advantage of a loophole in state law to operate machines that look and act too much like slot machines that are legal only at casinos and racetrack gaming parlors. Café owners and employees, however, countered that the state is attempting to shut down rather than regulate legitimate, sometimes family-run businesses that offer legal sweepstakes as opposed to illegal gambling.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
In the Senate, four Republicans joined all 10 Democrats to oppose a bill that supporters argue will help to level the legal playing field in asbestos litigation and opponents counter is an attempt to bar the courthouse door to the victims of the cancer-causing fibers.
In the end, the bill passed by a vote of 19-14. It now returns to the House for approval of changes the Senate made and is expected to reach Mr. Kasich's desk.