With no state law to follow, with no legal guidelines from the Ohio Attorney General, the State Legislature, the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office; and apparently soley on the advice of their legal counsel, Atty. Mark Finnamore, and Township Administrator Jason Loree, Boardman Trustees are considering implementing legislation for internet gaming sites that have proliferated throughout Boardman Township.
According to a listing of such businesses in Boardman Township compiled by the Zoning Office, there are currently 13 such internet cafes in the township, with hearings on the docket for two more. Previously the zoning office had indicated there were 17 internet cafes operating here.
Several sources in the township claimed one internet cafe offered a payout of $14,500 last week. A woman who called the Boardman News last week said she frequented several of the internet gaming sites in the township and claimed one owner told her his business had a monthly income estimated in the area of $500,000.
Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine has waffled on the issue of internet gaming since he took office. Last January, when he said his office would issue an opinion of such businesses ‘within a week.’ It never did.
Little more than a year later, speaking last week on WKBN radio with Dan Rivers, Mr. DeWine called internet gaming cafes “illegal.” He appeared to shift the focus of his office issuing a legal opinion, to calling for the Ohio Legislature to implement some type of laws governing the operation internet cafes, whose lobby has claimed for years the internet cafe games are based on ‘skill.’
Boardman police sources that have monitored internet cafes in the township previously, debunk the claim of skill---claiming such cafes are really nothing more than games of chance. In at least one one instance, police sources say an internet cafe here had no connection to the internet.
While Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains hasn’t taken a stand on internet cafes, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins has banned such businesses, pending a ruling from DeWine’s office.
Any resolutions approved by Trustees on internet cafes would have to go through three readings.
Among the measures that Trustees will consider are an annual licensing fee of $2500 or more, plus a fee of perhaps upwards of $50 per machine in each internet cafe, perhaps paid on a quarterly basis.
Until the Ohio Attorney General, or Ohio Legislature acts, Trustees may consider placing licensing and machine fees into an escrow account.
Mr. DeWine has stated in an effort to target businesses trying to skirt the law, “Oversight of these previously unregulated games, [will allow] law enforcement, consumers and charities to all operate in a more said do not meet the definition of skill-based amusements and, in his opinion, are illegal.
However, state law is not clear enough, the attorney general claims, to enable law enforcement to crack down on internet cafes. (Maybe so in Mahoning County, but not in Trumbull County).
It’s a situation that Mr. DeWine claims that he wants to change.
On Fri., Jan. 6, while in Dayton, he urged state lawmakers to require such gaming businesses to obtain licenses from a new casino control commission.
“To me, it is a consumer issue, and these places are frankly consumer rip-offs,” DeWine said. “When you go to a racetrack, the law says how much has to be paid back. When the new casinos are up, the law will say how much the slot machines have to pay back.
“These guys are running under the radar quite frankly, and they’re making millions and millions and millions of dollars.”
He added, “There is no regulation for these folks at all. We don’t know who owns them. No background checks are done on the ownership. There is no guarantee what the payoff is. And certainly we can assume no money is going to charity.”
Internet Cafes In
Treasure Island, 7684 Market St.
Lucky’s Internet Cafe, 685 Boardman-Canfield Rd.
Access Internet Cafe, 5965 South Ave.
D & F Gaming, 7375 Market St.
Lulase LLC, 859 East Midlothian Blvd.
Classic Internet Cafe, 8414 Market St.
A Cleaner Tommorow, 7050 Market St.
Safe Haven Internet Cafe, 7737 Market St.
Chubby Cherrie’s Internet Cafe, 7330 Southern Blvd.
Surf The World Internet Cafe, 960 Boardman-Canfield Rd.
Global Internet Cafe, 233 Boardman-Canfield Rd.
Powerhouse Internet Cafe, 7332 Southern Blvd.
Zoning Permits Still Pending
Mega Internet Cafe, 7605 Market St.
Unforbidden Treasure Cafe, 945 Boardman-Canfield Rd.
SOURCE: Boardman Township Zoning Office