The Columbus City Attorney has filed the first public nuisance lawsuits against two northside Internet cafes, claiming they are conducting illegal gambling. Since the state is currently gridlocked over how to treat these businesses, the City Attorney believes these lawsuits could establish precedent for how Columbus will deal with Internet cafes.
Meanwhile, a substitute gambling bill has been adopted by an Ohio Senate panel. If passed, a statewide moratorium on Internet cafes would prohibit any new businesses from opening before July 1, 2013. This would give legislators more time to hammer out the details on how to regulate these businesses.
This substitute bill would also make other changes to the gambling bill that began in the House (H.B. 386). Among those changes:
- Eliminate the language in the House bill that calls for 1% of VLT revenues to be used for problem gambling and substance addiction. The chairman of the Senate committee stated that with anticipated revenues, this addiction fund would be five to eight times larger than other states who have casinos and similar funds;
- Allow the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Child Support Enforcement Agency to “intercept lottery winnings” of those in arrears on their child support payments;
- Revise the minimum number of live racing days at the horse racing tracks. That number would be based upon VLT revenues at each track;
- Permit county commissioners to designate one charity card room per county and prohibit the location from being at a horse racing track;
- Require dealers in the card rooms to be licensed by the OCCC;
- Require the charity to disclose which dealers are paid and which are not;
- Allow owners or lessors of locations where charitable instant bingo takes place to keep 6% of the gross sales for operating costs;
- Increase the racetrack relocation fund from $12 million to $19 million over two years and provide $1 million over two years for infrastructure improvements to communities with tracks moving within the same jurisdiction;
- Require a portion of VLT sales commissions to go toward horse breeding programs and racing operations;
- Prohibit anyone not regulated by the OCCC from advertising as a casino;
- Eliminate a House provision that allowed casinos to write off bad debts that originated from lines of credit offered to patrons unable to repay the debt;
- Definition of cheating does not include “using of one’s mental facilities.”