COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine expanded his crackdown on Internet sweepstakes cafes Tuesday with the filing of lawsuits against a Wauseon business and two others in Van Wert and Mahoning counties.
He contends the three cafes violated the state’s moratorium prohibiting the opening of sweepstakes cafes using machines that he and others argue look and act too much like slot machines. Cafes were required under state law to file affidavits with the state by June 11, 2012, attesting to their existence and providing key information about the businesses.
Lucky Sweepstakes at 475 E. Linfoot St. in Wauseon failed to file such an affidavit by the deadline, a suit filed in Fulton County Common Pleas Court contends.
“As such, there exists a presumption that the locations were not in existence and operating prior to June 11, 2012,” it reads.
The suit seeks a preliminary injunction against Lucky’s operation. It does not identify owners or managers of the business but rather generally names 15 “John Does” as defendants.
Similar lawsuits were filed against A.J.’s Sweepstakes at 1150 S. Shannon St. in Van Wert and Winners Palace II, 1698 S. Raccoon Road in Austintown.
“While we suspect Ohio gambling laws are likely being violated at nearly all Internet cafes in Ohio, the clearest illegal activity occurs when an establishment opens in violation of the statewide moratorium,” Mr. DeWine said. “My office will not hesitate to take actions to shutter these illegal establishments when evidence shows they did not exist prior to the moratorium.”
Mr. DeWine testified in Senate committee in favor of House Bill 7, designed to remove the profit motive from the machines and essentially put the cafes out of business. The committee approved a separate bill extending the existing moratorium on the opening and expansion of sweepstakes cafes for nearly another year while the Senate considers House Bill 7. The full Senate is expected to vote on the moratorium bill today.
More than 800 cafes registered with the attorney general’s office when the moratorium was enacted last year. The cafe operators contend that they are not gambling operations but are rather using preprogrammed sweepstakes machines as promotions for the sale of their cards for long-distance phone-call minutes or Internet time.