LIMA — Sheriff Sam Crish has a major problem with Internet cafes, saying it’s nothing more than robbery.
“Internet cafes are scamming people,” he said. “They predetermine how much you’re going to win before you even play.”
There is no regulation with such operations popping up throughout the state.
State Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, wants to change that. Huffman introduced legislation Thursday to clarify Ohio’s law that governs gambling at Internet cafes.
Under the proposed legislation, the Ohio Lottery Commission would have authority to make rules and regulate Internet cafes.
“Internet gaming cafes are finding ways around the law, and it’s time for us to do something about it,” Huffman said in a written statement.
Internet cafes are largely considered illegal in Ohio, but there are more than 800 in the state. Many operate around weak existing law or test the limits, often beyond what is legal, officials said.
Crish has closed down one Internet café but said four others have since opened. He welcomes laws that clarify what is legal and what is not. What he wants the law to do the most is to prevent Internet cafes from scamming people.
Casinos, for example, Crish said, are regulated to have games of chance that allow people to win a certain percentage of time. Internet cafes are in control of the game and they decide how much they will let people win.
The Internet cafes that Crish have been familiar with involved a computerized form of slot machines played on a television screen or computer monitor. People buy minutes on a card to play the slots. Cafes bait players by allowing them to win a little but just enough to get them on the hook so they can take advantage of them, Crish said.
“People win, but they just suck you back in. They will let you win some, but ultimately you’re going to lose,” he said.