Sweepstakes cafes were all the rage in the early 2010s. A law enacted in 2013 seemingly put them out of business by banning cash prizes. 2013 and 2014 saw a statewide crackdown on these illegal gambling establishments. In 2014 the Ohio General Assembly gave the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) authority over internet cafes, which adapted their business by adding an element of skill. In 2018, the OCCC developed regulations for these “skill game parlors.”
August 2018 was the deadline for these parlors to apply for a required license from the OCCC to continue operating. While the license application was being reviewed, these skill game parlors could continue to operate. To date, the OCCC hasn’t approved any applicants in Columbus (there were 1,000). The Columbus Dispatch reviewed applications from around Ohio. The Dispatch discovered that there are still several of these skill game parlors operating that didn’t file a license application. An OCCC spokesman indicated that the application could be under another name, but acknowledged that there are probably skill game parlors operating that didn’t file an application. The Columbus Dispatch article goes on to say that, at least in Central Ohio, few seem concerned. Since 2013, only ten reports of illegal internet cafes have been filed with the police department. In 2016 and 2017, the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio surveyed 25,000 Ohioans. Only 1% said they had played games of chance at an internet café.