After several days of testimony from supporters and opponents of internet sweepstakes cafes before a House committee, House Bill 7, passed the Ohio House of Representatives by a 66-29 margin. The bill, which virtually regulates sweepstakes cafes out of business, will now go to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
Among the provisions of HB7:
- Sweepstakes parlors would have to register with the attorney general’s office and pay a $200 fee;
- Cash or prize payouts would be capped at $10;
- Café owners would provide a monthly report, at a cost of $50, which would be used in the enforcement of gambling laws;
- Any violation would result in an illegal gambling charge which would be a first degree misdemeanor. When introduced, the bill called for a charge of felony.
HB7 is expected to meet more resistance in the Senate, where GOP leaders are more favorable to regulation, rather than elimination, of internet sweepstakes cafes. In fact, House Bill 101 has been introduced. HB101 is an updated version of HB195 that was introduced in the last legislative session and died in committee. HB101 calls for friendlier regulation of Internet cafes.
Among the provisions of HB101:
- Local governments could enact bans or zoning restrictions on Internet cafes;
- Background checks would be required for employees;
- Independent labs would verify software, odds, and equipment;
- Alcohol would be prohibited from being served;
- Attorney general would create rules for how charities and fraternal organizations could use sweepstakes terminals. The alcohol ban would be waived for these organizations;
- Internet sweepstakes cafes would have to disclose odds of winning.