Lawmakers Want Statewide Regulations on Internet Cafes

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AKRON, Ohio—The raid on a small number of Internet cafes in Fremont, Ohio has focused attention on efforts to impose statewide regulations on the businesses.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has now publicly endorsed a bill that, in part, licenses the establishments and sets the number of machines each can have.

Springfield trustee Dean Young was at the forefront of a similar effort in Summit County which passed in 2010 after the businesses started opening along a small stretch of Canton and Massillon roads.

Young said that while cities across Ohio have had the ability to pass their own legislation regulating the businesses, many of the unincorporated townships had no such ability.

"The truth is, they move where there is no regulation," said Young on Monday, adding, "that kind of business needs regulation, (and) what would help us is if there is uniform regulation so the proposal that the state have regulation of these businesses is a good one."

Dennis Wencil, owner of the Massillon Road Internet Connection told Fox 8 by phone on Monday that the vast majority of owners are not opposed to regulation, but are opposed to what he calls the "extortionate amount of money" local and state governments might try to get from them.

His attorney, Donald Malarcik of Akron, represents numerous owners in their effort to try and create equitable regulations that benefit both the business owners and the governments trying to regulate them.

He believes the laws passed by Summit County Council could be a template for what the state is trying to draft, but he opposes a part of House Bill 195 that does not allow cash payments for sweepstakes winners.

Young said regulation benefits even the owners of the businesses.

"Regulations that make sure that they are doing things legitimate favor people who are legitimate. If you don't drive out the illegitimate or if you don't crack down on the people that are violating the law then there is no incentive to operate it lawfully."

So-called 'Internet cafes' still exist along Massillon and Canton roads in Springfield Twp., but not as many as before Summit County started enforcing its regulation.

"We have found that the regulation has limited, somewhat, the numbers. We, in Springfield Twp. had eleven, now we are down to seven and it tells us that there are certain operations and certain people running operations that don't want full disclosure so the regulations have been helpful," said Young.

Among the requirements in Summit County are that the owners have to pay an annual license fee.

They have to also submit detailed paperwork about who owns them and who works for them.

They have to pay a fee per machine on a regular basis.

Their hours are set and no one under 18 is permitted inside.

They also have to report anyone who wins a prize valued at greater than $600.

The state's law would place the Internet cafes under the regulation of the Casino Commission and Young also hopes it will give everyone a better definition of what is allowed as a 'sweepstakes' and what can legally be

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