For quite a while now Cleveland, Ohio Internet cafe owners have been waging a defensive battle against the odds, the American gambling laws and the state’s land casino operators in order just to stay in business.
These venues offer computers for patrons to engage in various video games, with cafe owners paying cash prizes. Some of the games at these cafes include slot-like American Treasures and Moo Money, as well as Shamrock 7’s, which is akin to video poker.
While this activity is legal, critics say the cafes’ computer terminals are in fact set up for illegal gambling. Addiction specialists claim that these venues draw patrons into gambling too easily, setting them up for real casino gambling or seeking to play online poker in the US (which is illegal).
A bill drawn up to impose stricter regulations by prohibiting such cash prizes – or any prize with a value of more than ten dollars – eventually stalled in the state legislature, but it would be premature for owners and patrons to celebrate.
In a latest round of heated legal exchanges, Internet cafe have called for the state to take legal steps after some recently obtained e-mails showed a connection between a casino lobbyist and two state officials who had testified in favor of the aforementioned bill.
According to court documents, the officials coordinated their planned remarks with the lobbyist in advance of the Senate committee hearing on the issue. The bill eventually failed to be put to vote before the end of the year, but the controversy surrounding Internet cafes remains.
Cafe owners claim that casinos are out to get them, intending to eliminate competition stemming from the cafes’ legal, but very limited gaming offers. At the same time they vehemently deny casino accusations that their 800-or-so Internet cafes serve as covers for illegal gambling operations.
Nevertheless, the same accusations were also repeated by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty in a statement earlier this week. “The purveyors of these gambling dens want to punish the prosecutor who testified with the Attorney General’s Office before the Legislature that their totally unregulated mini casinos, using rigged video slots to bilk little old ladies out of their pensions and pin money, are absolutely wrong and illegal under Ohio law,” claimed McGinty.
The controversy would most likely fade away if American internet casinos became fully legalized, as patrons striving for real gambling experience would not need to resort to substitutes. Until then, though, the legal wrangling continues. One thing is sure: the outcome is far from certain.