Nearly 300 Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors filed required paperwork this week with the state.
The controversial businesses were required to submit affidavits with the attorney general’s office by Thursday under a state law extending a moratorium on new ones opening.
Authorities are now looking over the paperwork from 298 businesses and will make the information available to law enforcement around Ohio, attorney general spokesman Dan Tierney said Friday.
He could not immediately provide a breakdown of where the businesses are located because the affidavits were still being examined.
The paperwork contains information such as the owner’s name and date the business opened.
The new statewide number is significantly less than the 600 or so that the attorney general estimated were operating in Ohio earlier this year.
Authorities believe many have closed, Tierney said.
The businesses, set up like mini casinos, often sell Internet time or phone cards, but people who buy those services can play games and win money on machines that look like video slots.
Attorney General Mike DeWine has accused the businesses of being illegal gambling operations and fronts for criminal activity. His office has helped raid many in the state, including several in Cuyahoga and Medina counties.
The businesses have argued that they are operating legally and efforts to close them will put people out of work and hurt local governments that receive fees from the operations.
Earlier this month, Gov. John Kasich signed a law that effectively shuts down the industry in the state, but it doesn’t take effect until September.
The sweepstakes industry has launched a petition drive to put the issue before Ohio voters in November 2014. But the industry must gather those signatures before the law that would kill them becomes effective.
Meanwhile, new legislation regulating the industry surfaced at the Statehouse and it would prevent the industry from seeking a referendum.
Mark Weaver, a Columbus attorney with the Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs, which announced the referendum effort, could not be reached for comment.
Summit County approved its own regulations on the industry a few years ago. There are now 11 businesses licensed through the county, which oversees operations in the nine townships.
Jason Dodson, chief of staff for Summit County Executive Russ Pry, said the county is watching the referendum and legislative efforts to see how they would impact the local regulations.
“We’re taking a wait-and-see approach,” he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.