State leaders should revisit cafe issue

A referendum on a state law that essentially bans Internet sweepstakes parlors might not be on the fall ballot. This week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted stated a group opposing the law did not have enough valid signatures to put the issue before voters this year.

Opponents still have a little more than a week to gather another 71,000 valid autographs. Even if they fail, Ohio legislators should consider the topic again.

At Internet cafes such as the ones in Tiffin, a patron can purchase phone and Internet time to play computer games that reveal whether the patron has won cash or other prizes in a sweepstakes. They operate similar to slot machines – too similar, for those who sought the ban.

The new state law bans the cafes from offering cash payouts and limits the value of any prize to $10. The petition drive to repeal the law followed, and continues.

But why should casinos and racinos be the only entities to offer a gambling experience in Ohio? With proper regulations, lawmakers could ensure Internet cafes indeed offer nothing more than sweepstakes – under the guise of slot machines. Operators would benefit, players could enjoy their visits and communities could collect fees or taxes in exchange for oversight.

Or, legislators could take their chance with an appeal.