Monday, August 6, 2012


 UPDATE: AUGUST 07, 2012 AT 11:00 AM

LINK to press release.


It appears to the SCPR that Canton City Council (for one of  a number of Stark County local governments), if council got its way, would like to see the State of Ohio ban or limit new Internet cafes which seek licensing by the state after a moratorium in place expires on June 30, 2013.   Many local government officials believe that they engage in running "games of chance" which is a violation of Ohio law.

 Reasons vary for the opposition.  They include:
  • of course, the violation of Ohio law (a misdemeanor) on games of chance not authorized by statutes or the Constitution of Ohio,
  • citizens who can least afford it losing money,
  • the cost to local taxpayer to investigate and prosecute cafes alleged to be operating outside the bounds of the law, and
  • historically, illegal gambling activities are thought by many in law enforcement to be connected with other types of criminal activity within society.
A March 23, 2012 memorandum from Canton City Council Judiciary Committee chairman Thomas West (D - Ward 2) to Councilman Edmond Mack (D - Ward 8) cites the following as Stark County crimes occurring proximate to Internet cafe sites:
  • Dec. 8, 2011: Attempted armed robbery and shooting at “Lucky Heaven 777,” 2123 Columbus Rd. NE in Plain Township.
  • Sept. 1, 2011: Armed robbery of “Phone Time Sweepstakes,” 3820 Lincoln Way E. in Perry Township.
  • May 14, 2011: Armed robbery of “Jackpot Internet Café,” 1186 W. State St., Alliance.
  • May 4, 2011: Armed robbery of “777 Skill Games,” 3007 Harrisburg Rd. NE, Plain
  • March 23, 2011: Armed robbery and shooting at “Stay N Play Skill Games,” 4026
    Cleveland Ave. NW.
    Here is the video discussion of the Internet cafe issue at a council work session immediately before its April 30, 2012 regular meeting. 

    At the post-work session meeting, council did pass (at its regular meeting) a resolution  (by a unanimous voice vote) which places a Canton moratorium on any new city licenses being issued through October 30, 2012.

    If banning them is to become a reality, it seems that the council itself is going to have "to take the bull by the horns" and ban them as Ohio is unlikely to do anything other than set up licensing standards for them.   Some commentators think that local governments will have the power to ban them even if Ohio legislates on the matter in terms of licensing and regulating them.  (Reference LINK)

    Ohio does have a moratorium any "new" cafes coming into existence after June 11, 2012.  The moratorium lasts until June 30, 2013 (HB 386).

    However, it is more than a little bit uncertain that Ohio will regulate Internet cafes and highly unlikely that they will be banned by statutory fiat.

    To the SCPR, the prevalent attitude with both the Legislature and the Ohio attorney general's office is that it is up to local law enforcement to take existing law and apply it case by case to businesses operating as Internet cafes.

    And if that maintains, and Ohio does not enact a regulatory regime, then Canton and Stark County face the prospect of being flooded with new cafes after the state moratoriums expire inasmuch as neighboring communities (e.g Akron [Summit County]) do regulate the licensing of Internet cafes.

    Attorney General Mike DeWine published a list of 772 affidavit complying Internet cafes according the following language contained in HB 386, to wit:
    Within thirty days after the effective date of this section, a sweepstakes establishment conducting a sweepstakes through the use of a sweepstakes terminal device in existence and operating before the effective date of this section shall file an affidavit with the Attorney General certifying that the establishment was in existence and operating before the effective date of this section and indicating the address of the establishment.
    Here is a list of Stark County located cafes filing an affidavit with DeWine's office:

    And specifically in the city of Canton:

    But DeWine is being criticized for the "mixed messages" his office is sending on the issue, to wit (LINK to reporting newspaper)
    Fremont Attorney Joe Albrechta, who represented the owner of Player's Club on now-dismissed criminal charges, said he has seen conflicting messages on the legality of sweepstakes cafes from DeWine.
    "It seems to depend on which audience he's speaking to," he said. "Local communities were getting mixed signals from the state."
    Assistant City Prosecutor Jeff Kane decided earlier this month not to refile criminal charges against owners and staff previously charged with misdemeanor gambling. Kane agreed that a lack of support from DeWine hurt the city's attempt at criminal prosecution.
    "We never really got any backing from the attorney general's office," he said. "A solid opinion from them would have helped in pursuing these."
    DeWine said he believes most of the sweepstakes operations in the state are operating illegally. Though he said his office will assist local authorities with an investigation, if asked, the attorney general said he is not providing advice to police in the state about what to do about their local cafes.
    "It's up to the local enforcement agency," he said. "They make that call."
    Local legislators, Scott Oelslager (R - Ohio Senate - 29th), Christina Hagan (R - Ohio House - 50th), Kirk Schuring (R -Ohio House - 51st [to be the 48th]) and Stephen Slesnick (D - 52nd [to be the 49th]) haven't lifted a finger to help Stark County political subdivisions dealing with the proliferating  Internet cafe problem.

    In a sense, they are AWOL, "absent without official leave."  Ohioans and Stark Countians expect them and their peers in the Ohio General Assembly to deal forthrightly and officially with the problems facing the citizenry.

    Slesnick (as Canton's representative) bears primary responsibility for the Canton aspect of the problem.  The least that he and the others should do is to sign on as co-sponsors.  As to be seen in the graphics below, not one Stark County legislator name appears.

    Why haven't they, at a minimum, signed on?

    Note that the two bills under consideration (House Bill 195 - introduced April 12, 211 [well over a year ago] and Senate Bill 317 - March 12, 2012) are on a track to go nowhere in the immediate future.

    Here what Republican Rep. Rex Damschroder had to say recently:
    "I don't think you're going to see any movement on it until after we go back to session, or maybe not until the next general assembly."
    No help from the Legislature, including Stark's local representatives.

    No help from the Ohio attorney general.

    So it is a "Yogi Berra-esque deja-vu all over again" as in the state's undermining of local government as with the nose dive that Ohio's funding of local governments has taken since Governor John Kasich has taken office, that is to say:
    • Local Gov't Fund funding cut in half, 
    • Estate Tax monies being dried up effective 01/01/2013, and 
    • Ohio not keeping its promise to hold local governments harmless on the termination of the tangible personal properly tax)
    With its inaction on HB 195 and SB 317, Ohio adds the burden and high expense of  locals enforcing State of Ohio laws.


    Go figure!

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