State Rep. Tony Burkley, R-Payne, said the newly-signed House Bill 7 will have the consequences that were indicated all along — shutting down illegal gambling.
The Ohio House of Representatives approved House Bill 7 in March by a 66-29 vote and the move was later approved in the Senate by a 27-6 vote. Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law May 29.
The law halts the expansion of Internet cafes that sprouted up around the state and will require those existing to submit new, stricter affidavits to the state. The move will effectively close most of the more than 600 Internet cafes and limit payouts to $10 at the ones which manage to stay open.
Attorney General Mike DeWine has been vocal about the Internet cafes being the home to illegal activities such as money laundering.
Burkley said the new law simply removes gray area from legislation that was meant to rule out businesses such as Internet cafes in the first place.
“The obvious intent of the state was for gambling to be strictly regulated in the state of Ohio,” Burkley said. “Anytime there is gray area, you will find people that take advantage of it. This will make the law black and white.”
Wapakoneta has one Internet cafe currently operating at 1321 Bellefontaine St., 777 Sweepstakes. Workers at the Internet cafe referred all calls to the establishment manager, who identified himself as Eric. He was asked for comment on the issue.
He took the questions and said he needed to contact the corporate officials and he would call back with answers to the questions.
He has not called back and has not accepted any more telephone calls from the Wapakoneta Daily News.
Internet cafes offered Internet time, sell phone cards, and other basic services to customers, but Burkley said largely that was just a front to operate a gambling establishment.
“You ask anyone on the street if the name implies what was going on,” Burkley said. “They will tell you it was gambling. They were skirting an already existing law and this will clear it up.”
The law had an emergency clause allowing it to take effect immediately.
However, 777 Sweepstakes was still operating as of Friday.
The store opened last summer.
Among the services it advertised when it opened included Internet usage in $5, $10, and $20 increments, watching movies or playing games offered by the store and automatically being entered in a sweepstakes each time they bought time.