COLUMBUS, Ohio — A trade association representing purveyors of pinball machines, arcade games, jukeboxes, pool tables and other coin-operated amusements is suing Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration over its coronavirus restrictions that ban Ohioans from using the machines in bars, restaurants and other venues.
A lawsuit filed in Lake County Common Pleas Court on Thursday accuses Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and other state officials of exceeding their legal authority under a state emergency health order law.
Even as DeWine has started allowing bars and restaurants to re-open, current rules from the state health department require them to block access to the machines. The idea is to prevent people from congregating in tight spaces, which can allow the coronavirus to spread through the air, according to state officials.
The suit, filed on behalf of the Ohio Coin Machine Association, is the latest litigation attempting to chip away at DeWine’s coronavirus rules. It makes similar arguments to another case in Lake County filed by a group of Ohio gyms that challenged the state’s coronavirus restrictions — and won.
Common Pleas Judge Eugene Lucci delivered a sweeping ruling in the gyms’ favor on Wednesday, although the order could still be contested at other levels of the court system.
“Our clients’ constitutional rights were violated,” said Orville Reed, an Akron attorney representing the coin-machine companies. “They’re pretty upset.”
The lawsuit notes the state’s order is inconsistent, since it exempts the Ohio Lottery kiosks at bars and restaurants that help raise revenue for the state’s coffers. It says jukeboxes, pinball machines, etc. can be operated safely and the companies, if allowed, would offer hand sanitizer, wipes and other means for people to clean their hands and the machines before and after using them.
And, the lawsuit says the people considered most at-risk to COVID-19 — the elderly — are unlikely to use their products.
“Few people between the ages of 70 to 80 or 90, or who are bound to nursing homes, are found frequenting bars and bowling alleys. Fewer still are going to bars and playing billiards, pinball games, video games or arcade games,” the lawsuit reads.
Reed said his clients aren’t just looking for a sympathetic judge by filing in Lake County. Of note, a different Republican judge, Judge John P. O’Donnell, has been assigned to hear the case.
“We think our case is righteous. We’re meritorious,” Reed said. “We’re not looking for sympathy. We’re looking for a court that will listen to arguments and do the right thing. That’s why we’re in Lake County.”
The lawsuit lists 20 companies as plaintiffs, including Garage Bar Willoughby LLC, in Willoughby, and Cadillac Music Corporation in Cleveland.
A DeWine spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.