Thursday April 18, 2013 : OHIO INTERNET SWEEPSTAKES CAFES UNDER PRESSURE
Eight venues raided as the authorities clamp down on allegedly illegal internet gambling
Another US state has joined Florida, North Carolina and California in clamping down hard on illegal ‘sweepstakes' style gambling in Internet cafes.
Announcing the clampdown Wednesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said search warrants had been executed by enforcement officials, who had visited a number of Internet cafes operating in Cuyahoga County.
Associated Press reports said three of the premises visited were owned by a company titled VS2 Software, a supplier of video lottery terminals (VLTs).
Local police, the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's office seized 352 VLTs, along with several bank accounts, and executed the search warrants, one of them at the home of VS2 president Bill Cornick.
Prosecutor McGinty gave notice that he intended to shut down all internet cafes operating illegal gambling in his county.
"The party's over. We plan on marching them to jail," he said.
Ohio AG DeWine characterised the local internet gambling scene as "the Wild, Wild West", and supported the county prosecutor in his initiative.
DeWine said that his department has created an internal unit to help police officers and prosecutors investigate illegal gambling at storefront gambling-like operations known as Internet cafes.
The AG revealed that Wednesday's sweep was a collaborative investigation by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office working in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio Investigative Unit of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, Parma Heights Police Department, and several law enforcement agencies in the state of New Jersey.
He claimed that a recent state appeals court decision made it clear the cafes are conducting illegal gambling.
Legal representatives for the Internet cafe operators opined that the authorities had overstepped their authority, and claimed the initiative was based on a desire by local land casino operators to kill off potential competition.
The casinos have been backing legalization in the Ohio legislature to outlaw Internet cafes. The legalization has passed the House and is now in the Senate.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol released a statement advising that a total of eight Internet cafes were visited, and advising that the raids were the result of a case investigation that began in August 2011, by OIU enforcement agents, where liquor establishments were operating illegal gaming machines.
"In the state of Ohio, liquor permit premises are prohibited from operating illegal gaming. OIU also provides law enforcement assistance and expertise in non-permit establishments when requested."