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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Petition attempt to take Internet cafe issue directly to voters fizzles, Ohio law going into effect

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s new law designed to kill storefront Internet “sweepstakes” cafes that have popped up across the state will go into effect immediately after a petition attempt to put the issue directly to voters fizzled today.

Café operators and their supporters gave up after it became clear the petition circulation firm it hired could not gather the roughly 71,000 valid signatures of registered voters needed to fill a gaping hole in their initial petitions filed last month.

The group, however, said it is keeping its options open for a potential court challenge to the law.

“As the first statewide ballot issue committee to operate under new, more onerous rules regarding signature collection in Ohio, it appears that the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law was correct when it recently filed a lawsuit challenging these rules as an unconstitutional infringement of Ohioans' right to petition their government,” reads a statement from the Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs.

“Simply put, never before has it been so difficult for Ohio citizens to place an issue on the ballot,” it reads.

The cafes, which dot downtown and strip mall storefronts across the state, will not disappear overnight, but House Bill 7 is designed to remove the profit motive from their sweepstakes machines. The law bans cash payouts and caps the value of non-cash prizes at $10.



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