Feeds

Internet cafés declared 'illegal businesses' in Ohio

Wretched hives 'harm more people than do good'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Having solved all of the state's other problems, the Ohio legislature has passed a bill outlawing that most foul of societal ills: the internet café.

As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, House Bill 7, which passed the State Senate with a bipartisan vote of 27 to 6 on Wednesday, effectively cuts off the main source of income for Ohio's internet cafés and is expected to put most of them out of business.

That's just fine with Republican Senator Jim Hughes, who argued in favor of the bill on the Senate floor.

"Although these cafés provide a source of income for some ... internet cafés harm more people than do good," Hughes reportedly said.

His remarks echoed earlier comments by state Attorney General Mike DeWine, who, emboldened by a decision in the 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals that some internet cafés were operating illegal businesses under Ohio law, has been cracking down on the online parlors for the past few months.

In April, DeWine organized a high-profile raid by federal, state, and local police forces that shut down six internet cafés in Ohio's Cuyahoga County.

"In our office we always believed these places were illegal. Now we're armed with a court decision which makes this crystal clear," DeWine told reporters at the time.

At this point, dear reader, you're doubtless wondering just what could be so harmful about email, web surfing, and online gaming that could have armed police kicking down an internet café's door. But the situation in Ohio isn't quite what it seems, owing to the unique business model employed by internet cafés in the state.

It's true that Ohio's internet cafés sell internet access and phone minutes. But according to DeWine, Hughes, and other proponents of House Bill 7, that's not what keeps their customers coming back.

What frequent internet café patrons really want, the bill's sponsors say, is the chance to play computer "sweepstakes games," which the cafés allow for free with every purchase. These games typically resemble slot machines and offer players the chance to win cash prizes, which DeWine says essentially makes the cafés unlicensed casinos.

Some patrons certainly treat them like casinos. In studies, internet café customers were found to have purchased massive amounts of phone time – enough to allow them to talk for 24 hours per day for months – just so they could keep playing the sweepstakes games.

In February, Cuyahoga County prosecutors seized nearly $2m from internet cafés, all of which they say was proceeds from illegal gambling operations.

"These 500 illegal, unregulated, corner gambling parlors have been making tens of millions of dollars by swindling their poor, elderly, and vulnerable slot players," Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement.

What's more, Senator Hughes said some Ohio internet cafés had been linked to money laundering, fraud, drug sales, and even human trafficking.

House Bill 7 would end all of that by limiting the amount of cash payouts in sweepstakes games to $10, effectively removing the element of gambling from the equation. By so doing, legislators believe the bill will ultimately drive the internet café business from the state.

Not every Ohio legislator agreed with this approach. Republican Senator Bill Seitz argued that the internet café business should be regulated rather than destroyed.

"Today it is my privilege to give the eulogy for the 6,000 to 8,000 people that will be put out of work by the adoption of this measure," Seitz said upon House Bill 7's passage.

Having been approved by both the House and Senate, the bill now goes to the desk of Governor John Kasich, who is expected to sign it. Once he does, the new limits on sweepstakes games will go into effect within 90 days. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's iPhone 6 first-day sales are MEANINGLESS, mutters analyst
Big weekend queues only represent fruity firm's supply
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes
'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.