The Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate said Tuesday that they hoped to pass legislation before the end of the year regulating sweepstakes parlors and Internet cafes.
Both House Speaker Bill Batchelder, from Medina, and Senate President Tom Niehaus, from New Richmond, said the law changes were needed to control the gaming storefronts.
"I think it's something that we definitely want to try to deal with," Batchelder said. "At this point, the law is unclear. We have a number of counties where sheriffs have acted to close down operations. We have other places where they have been allowed to operate. To me, it's an open question that probably ought to have an answer from the general assembly."
"I would like to address it in lame duck session," Niehaus said, adding he was leaning toward a regulatory approach rather than an outright ban.
The businesses began surfacing after the state tightened laws covering skill-based amusement games. The new storefronts offer online sweepstakes gaming, operating in similar fashion, opponents say, to slot machines.
Attorney General Mike DeWine and others have said state law is not clear on the legality of Internet cafes, making it difficult for law enforcement to crack down on such operations.
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a moratorium on the opening of new parlors and required existing ones to file affidavits with Dewine's office. Close to 700 of the locations registered by the summer deadline.
Several bills also are being considered by lawmakers, including one introduced by House Republicans earlier this month that would place Internet cafes under the authority of the Ohio Lottery Commission.