COLUMBUS - At the urging of some of Ohio's top law enforcers, the once reticent Ohio Senate has decided to move forward on a proposal effectively outlawing Internet cafes.
Republican Senate President Keith Faber said Wednesday that a majority of his caucus now agrees the sweepstakes parlors are illegal and should be banned.
"Hopefully, we can get this done in a way that we don't have to worry about this again," Faber said. "But history has proven that this is something where we have to stay vigilant. These folks who figure out a way to operate in this area have a willingness to bend the law."
The GOP-controlled chamber only last week had signaled a bill limiting cash payouts from the cafes was still in trouble. Two similar measures sent over by the House, sponsored by state Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, had gotten bottled up in committee since last year.
Faber's announcement follows pleas by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for legislative action, as well as a pivotal 8th District Court of Appeals ruling concluding the operations were obvious gambling schemes.
DeWine, a fellow Republican, led a raid on six of the facilities in the Cleveland area last week after an appellate court ruled the cafes constituted illegal gambling.
DeWine, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Ohio Public Safety Director Tom Charles met with Senate Republicans in a closed-door meeting Tuesday to urge action, explaining the financial and staffing demands being put on law enforcement agencies by the current setup.
The three flanked Faber as he made his announcement Wednesday, lauding the chamber for its change of heart.
Faber, who took the helm in January, said the Senate also wants to toughen a moratorium on the cafes that ends in June.
Faber said he expects that Internet cafe bill to move quickly. He said House Speaker Bill Batchelder has indicated his chamber will follow suit.