What good is a lame-duck session of the legislature? It can be helpful for wrapping up bills long under discussion and ready for enactment, as opposed to starting over after the first of the year. With that in mind, lawmakers would do well to act — finally — on legislation to ban or at least regulate closely Internet cafes or sweepstakes parlors, where games are played that resemble video slot machines.
Two years ago, the Summit County Council moved locally to regulate and license the operations. What has become plain is the need for state action. Mike DeWine long has been urging state lawmakers to act. The state attorney general rightly sees the businesses as gaming parlors. State lawmakers wouldn’t permit a casino to open without applying rules. With some 800 of these cafes or parlors in the state, that is what they entail.
In April, the legislature revamped the state’s laws covering gambling in view of the arrival of four casinos and electronic slots at horse racetracks. Lawmakers placed a moratorium on the cafes or parlors — with the expectation that they soon would get to the regulation.
Now time is running short. Thankfully, the foundation for action has been set, DeWine, in particular, leading the way. He presents a persuasive case for action. As things now stand, the businesses are unregulated by the state. There are no background checks of operators, no requirements for posting odds or rules governing payouts.
DeWine worries about the potential for money laundering, for escaping the payment of taxes, or other criminal activity. Among other things, he has proposed charging a license fee to the businesses, mandating a minimum payout and establishing a central computer system for monitoring all sweepstakes machines in the state.
Ideally, the state would prohibit these businesses. That isn’t to deliver a harsh assessment of all the operators. Rather, the state has enough gambling, along with the associated problems and hollow promises of economic development. If these businesses are going to open their doors, the state must establish a regulatory regimen. That has been well understood. The attorney general has established how to do so. Lawmakers have noodled the way forward. Now they should act.