Effort To Repeal Internet Cafe Crackdown Continues; Signatures Turned In


UPDATED: Tuesday September 3, 2013 6:55 PM

A law to ban hundreds of sweepstakes parlors across Ohio - often called internet cafes - was scheduled to go into effect Wednesday.  But they will stay open, at least for now.

Internet cafe owners submitted over 420,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office on Tuesday.

They need at least 232,000 of them to be valid in order to stop the law from going into effect.

Rob Dabish owns over 20 sweepstakes cafes in Ohio, including two in central Ohio.  He says regulation is needed but not a complete ban.

"The ones that are legitimate should stay open," said Dabish. "We create jobs, we help out the community and we pay taxes.  They're not about sex trafficking. They're not about drugs.They're just a good safe environment."

Dabish admits that some of the sweepstakes businesses have operated illegally in the past.

That's what led Attorney General Mike DeWine to support a ban that Gov. John Kasich signed earlier this year.

"There's almost 800 of them around the state of Ohio," said DeWine.  "There's no background check on the people that work there. It's a consumer rip off because there's no guarantee of what the payout is."

Dabish says that those businesses breaking the law should be shut down.

"If you're not running a legitimate sweepstakes, I'm for regulation, just shut them down," said Dabish.

If enough signatures are validated, the internet café issue will be on the November, 2014 ballot.

Supporters are rolling the dice. Lawmakers could still ban them by passing an emergency clause before next November.

State Representative Jay Hottinger says many lawmakers oppose gambling and others side with casino operators in Ohio who also oppose the sweepstakes businesses.

The internet cafe filing is the first referendum petition submitted since lawmakers approved tougher ballot qualifications following the Senate Bill 5 fight.

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