Julie Carr Smyth
AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS: The Ohio Lottery Commission has temporarily pulled a request to fund new gambling machines after a coalition of veterans’ and fraternal organizations rejected the devices to replace video raffle machines deemed illegal.
A spokeswoman says the commission is reviewing a Controlling Board request that had been slated for Monday related to 1,200 next-generation machines the lottery had offered to the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition.
Spokeswoman Danielle Frizzi-Babb said numbers were being finalized. It was unclear when the request might be resubmitted.
Member organizations of the veterans’ coalition wrote to Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers last week saying they didn’t want the machines.
Coalition director Bill Seagraves said the arrangement wouldn’t allow posts to generate enough for charity, so veterans are focused on a House bill introduced in October that would legalize existing devices.
“Why would they ask to fund something that the consumer doesn’t want?” he said.
Attorney General Mike DeWine has declared as illegal the bingo raffle devices in operation at veterans’ posts and fraternal clubs around Ohio, but for months he’s delayed enforcement action against them to allow time for compromise.
His office most recently warned the coalition Oct. 16 that there were “no longer legitimate reasons” to delay enforcement. No enforcement action followed.
Seagraves said DeWine’s charitable law section helped craft language for the House bill that would legalize veterans’ machines, establishing the attorney general’s clear enforcement authority over the devices.
Just before the bill was to be introduced by state Rep. Rick Perales, a first-term Republican from Greene County, the lottery surprised veterans with its proposal for replacement machines, Seagraves said. Frizzi-Babb said the proposal was developed at Kasich’s request.
The vendor for the replacement lottery machines would be the Greek company Intralot, whose lobbyists include two of Kasich’s closest political advisers, Doug Preisse and Robert Klaffky.
The veterans’ coalition has an ally in former state Republican chairman Bob Bennett, a former lobbyist and sometime consultant to their group and its machine vendor, Charitable Management & Capital Group.
Bennett is holding a fundraiser for DeWine at his Cleveland-area home on Dec. 16. Tickets for the event range in price from $500 per couple to $12,000 to co-chair.
Bennett, who was Ohio’s longest-serving GOP chairman at the time of his recent retirement, said the event has nothing to do with the machine flap.
“I do this for him every year, and I’d wanted to do it earlier but I had to reschedule,” he said. “Don’t read any more into it than that.”
Seagraves said he believes the coalition’s machines would have been legalized by now if it weren’t for the interceding debate on Internet cafes.
While he worked to compromise with veterans’ groups, DeWine aimed his office’s law enforcement might at the storefront parlors across the state, successfully lobbying the state Legislature to ban the establishments.
“I’ve known Mike DeWine for some time, and he’s always been pretty good with veterans,” Seagraves said. “People confuse us with Internet cafes, but all of ours goes to charity, their goes for profits. That’s the difference.”