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Ohio Attorney General to crackdown on internet cafes

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says his office will begin enforcement efforts for Ohio's new internet sweepstakes café regulations.

The new law is expected to become effective now that referendum efforts were discontinued Thursday.

"Internet sweepstakes cafés have long had operations that raised suspicions of illegal gambling," said Attorney General DeWine in a news release from his office. "Ohio now has a law which makes clear which activities are legal and illegal in these cafes, and we will not hesitate to enforce the law." said DeWine.


House Bill 7 gives the Attorney General's Office regulatory authority over sweepstakes terminal devices used by internet sweepstakes cafes. Cafes are required to obtain a certificate of registration from the Attorney General's Office and file monthly reports. The Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) also now will have explicit authority to investigate gambling law violations alleged to occur at internet sweepstakes cafes.

The Attorney General's Office will be sending letters to each of the internet sweepstakes cafes who previously filed affidavits of existence pursuant to Senate Bill 115's moratorium on new cafes. The letter will outline the changes to law enacted by House Bill 7, including a $10 limit on the value of prizes. The new law also prohibits prizes in the form of cash, gift cards, lottery tickets, bingo, instant bingo, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, or vouchers for any such items.

The new law also draws a distinction between the casino-style games played at internet sweepstakes cafes and traditional promotional sweepstakes offered by retailers. Retailers who offer promotional sweepstakes via a terminal device will have certain restrictions and registration to ensure compliance with Ohio law.

The Attorney General's Office will also be sending letters to all 88 county prosecutors letting them know of the known cafes in their county. The Attorney General's Office will continue to provide assistance to local law enforcement who request assistance on illegal gambling investigations regarding internet sweepstakes cafes, including services from BCI, charitable law investigators and attorneys, and special prosecutors.

"House Bill 7 certainly offers clearer guidelines for legal sweepstakes than what previously existed in Ohio law," DeWine said. "Sweepstakes operators need to conduct their business in accordance with the law. We will be watching."

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