Last month, it appeared HB 7 might not see action until 2014. Now Ohio Senate President Keith Faber is saying action will be taken by the end of May.
Originally the Senate was believed to have been favoring regulation over an outright ban of sweepstakes cafes. That apparently changed after a meeting with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Public Safety Director Tom Charles and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien. Faber now says that the inability to differentiate legal from illegal operations and the fact that Internet cafes serve no public purpose were the decisive reasons for a change of heart and the catalyst to fast track the bill was an 8th District Court of Appeals decision that ruled Internet cafes were illegal gambling.
In a related note, Faber has requested all campaign contributions, made to fellow legislators, from industry lobbyists be returned. In a raid of VS2 Worldwide Communications offices in New Jersey, an email was discovered where company officials told owners of these sweepstakes cafes to make contributions to lawmakers and legislative committee members. Most of the targeted lawmakers were Senators. HB 7 is pending in the Ohio Senate.
Meanwhile SB 115 was introduced, a bill that extends the current moratorium on Internet cafes to June 30, 2014. SB 115 also contains an emergency clause, which will make it effective immediately upon signing by the Governor. This moratorium is more stringent than the one in place. All Internet café owners would be required to file new affidavits with the attorney general’s office. They must identify owners and employees of the establishment and indicate when the business began conducting sweepstakes games. Failure to file the affidavits could result in a fine of $1,000 a day.
The new moratorium was required because even if HB 7 passes, it would not take effect until after the current moratorium expires on June 30, 2013. SB 115 is expected to be heard and pass the Senate this week.