Thursday, March 7, 2013

Protecting Our Local Bingo Halls

Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy

Currently, the General Assembly is reviewing House Bill 7, which would change current law as it relates to sweepstakes terminals and games of chance. This bill is a culmination of two years of work to ensure illegal gaming is eliminated and charitable gaming is protected.

This legislation is supported by Attorney General Mike DeWine, who told the Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee that “40 percent of the people seeking help for problem gambling at Maryhaven (in Central Ohio) report that internet sweepstakes are their game of choice.”

The attorney general is seeking legislative changes that will allow the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate suspected internet sweepstakes cafes and designate the facilities for repurposing.
House Bill 7 may allow gambling devices to be used within the confines of Ohio law and retains the ability for service organizations to maintain bingo and other games of chance that promote charities.

In recent years, we have witnessed the expansion of gambling terminals called “internet cafes” or sweepstakes parlors. Some of these facilities attract the most vulnerable population to gamble with the purchase of phone cards. By using the phone cards they have found a way around Ohio law, which is a loophole that must be closed. In talking with some of those involved in this industry, they highlight that their business attracts new residents of this country and illegal aliens because they use the minutes on their phone cards to call their families overseas. This is really about the parlor owners pocketing your hard earned dollars in a scheme.

Under current Ohio law it is clear that gambling is limited for occasions that serve the public good, and when gambling does occur, it is strictly regulated and monitored.

In urban centers we have witnessed dark rooms open for business where gaming is conducted for the profit of a few men, not the public benefit. This goes against the intentions of Ohioans and takes away from our local communities.

I fully support our ability to gamble in environments that provide a fair chance for public profit, and those environments that raise money for the public good. The ability of Legions, VFWs, and other organizations to raise money by operating a bingo hall is important. Eliminating illegal gambling will direct funds to those entities that are entitled to gambling revenue and may impact your winnings when you play bingo next or drive to an Ohio casino or racino.

If we do not take the necessary steps to eliminate the internet cafes, it may lead to a legal threat to our bingo halls and charitable gaming operations within our communities. There is a right and a wrong, and in the case of the sweepstakes parlors they are just wrong.

In west central Ohio, this is an issue of increased importance. Recently, sweepstakes parlors have entered places as close as Lima, Dayton and Van Wert. They are moving in under a loophole that opens up a potential threat to our ability to raise money for local charities and benefits. As your state representative, I will continue to stand in support of our way of life. West central Ohio is the best place in the world to live, work and rear a family, and we must take all steps necessary to keep it that way.

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