Ohio AG Unit Raids Internet Cafes Over Illegal Gambling

It’s getting tougher and tougher for Internet Cafes to keep out of the watchful eyes of the Ohio legal system these days. Last month in April, search warrants were executed and Ohio police stormed in on six storefront gambling operations located inside Internet cafes. What they found were completely set up gambling operations that had all the machines illegally running in Cuyahoga County. The Counties Sheriff office started taking down and then seized (Video Lottery Terminals) 352 VLTs at two DS2 locations that were also located in New Jersey. It seems that the center of the gaming operation was being managed and run in New Jersey. That’s not all; several bank accounts that were used to manage the money flow were also seized during the process. Of the six operations that were broken up included two Internet cafes named the Players Club on Euclid Avenue in Euclid and the Collinwood Cyber Cafe on Lakeshore Boulevard in Collinwood. In total, there were two raided in Westlake, two in Euclid and two in Cleveland to make up the six. The Ohio police are determined to end all the gaming operations in the state and will make it their mission to do so by putting them out of business in a hurry. "The party's over. We plan on marching them to jail," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said. The sting operation has been in in the works for some time now, starting with the investigation in August 2011. What makes this whole story interesting is that it’s actually the land-based casinos in Ohio that have been backing the legislation in the state legislature to outlaw Internet cafes. Currently the legislation has passed the house and is now in the senate for debate.

They are stepping it up as the police department has created an internal unit that would help police and prosecutors all illegal at storefront operations where there are gambling like businesses running or considered Internet cafes. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is convinced that the process he has been forced to undertake is the “hard way” to do things and it would be best if the lawmakers passed a bill that would regulate these Internet cafes. But it’s the backers of these gaming operations that claim it’s good for the economy and they should be legal. Once again, Lawmakers stress the fact that voters never approved of these Internet cafes and they should be shut down. It’s the cafes that are convinced the that land based casinos are forcing the police to go in and shut them down; Michael Nelson, attorney for some of the six Cuyahoga County Internet cafes, tells Beres that "is overstepping his authority…and is nothing more than a front man for the Ohio casino industry." So, now it means that the Internet Cafes could potentially call themselves something new to get themselves around the law, since it’s the lawmakers that have specifically made them illegal under the current business structure. One way to do that is bring in the so called “skill games” into the cafes. This would prompt the Ohio Casino Control Commission to explore and amendment to the café bill. “There is some anxiety out there that there may be a movement to start to mix in things that may not be skill games into skill games locations,” said Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Overall, the commission has no idea how many skill games parlors are in the state or even where they are located. The good news is that there doesn’t seem to be any complaints about the skilled games operations, but there is still a need to pass some form of legislation to regulate these operations. An amendment could be added to the House bill 7, which is known as the Internet café bill. What makes the skill games fly under that radar in Ohio is that they are limited to non-cash prizes and the merchandise they win cannot be worth more than $10. Basically, the Internet Café owners want their businesses to be regulated and are now in the process of convincing senators to pass the bill that will allow them to do that. They believe that what they are doing is not gambling but a form of entertainment. It’s the Republicans that believe that the way that House Bill 7 is written in its current state would allow for gaming businesses to essentially squeeze through loopholes.