back to article Internet cafés declared 'illegal businesses' in Ohio

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 …


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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Ban everything

    Senator Hughes said some Ohio gas stations had been linked to money laundering, fraud, drug sales, and even human trafficking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ban everything

      Really I don't know who is worse here. The lawmakers or the Register for calling these "internet cafes". There basically gambling dens by a misdemeanor. Wish they'd called them "politicians bars" or "court houses". Banning those would have cause some confusion...

    2. The Axe

      Re: Ban everything

      Yep, all politicians just think "ban everything" rather than get existing laws properly enforced.

      If illegal acts are being carried out, then prosecute. Don't shut down the whole operation because of the actions of a few. Or shout out lots of hyperbole just because things aren't going the way you think they are.

      The above can also be assigned to Margaret Hodge (HodgeTheDodge).

      1. Rick Giles

        @The Axe Re: Ban everything

        You're really missing the point. What's not mentioned in the article is the fact that the city/county/state government isn't getting their "fair share" (i.e. taxes) of the profit. That's why they greedy bastards are all up in a tizzy.

        It will all be better when the corporations are the government and we are paying off our life debt.

      2. Tom 13

        @The Axe: For a change it isn't the politicians at fault.

        It's the leftist Reg author who lives in Frisco trying to smear Ohio politicians because they happen to be Republicans (as do a majority of the House and Senate).

        Proper title would have been: Ohio makes it Illegal for Internet Cafes to Skirt Gambling Laws.

        If the Internet Cafe is an honest to goodness Internet cafe, it will still be in business. But if their business model depends on patrons gambling, they are toast.

        Of course an honest portrayal of what is happening wouldn't generate the necessary rage and Commentard remarks.

    3. Throatwobbler Mangrove

      Re: Ban everything

      Just to be clear: the bill text didn't prohibit or restrict anyone operating legit Internet cafes - just operating gambling and games of chance.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        No Fun allowed!

        There basically gambling dens by a misdemeanor.

        Who gives a flying f*ck except the cretinous cretins continually minding your own business?

        1. Rick Giles

          @Destroy All Monsters Re: No Fun allowed!

          Fun is allowed... as long as you pay the appropriate fun tax.

          Mine's the one with the original US Constitution in it, you know, the one before 1871

      2. MrXavia

        Re: Ban everything

        And what is wrong with gambling I say?

        the USA is messed up, hand guns legal, but gambling must be banned???

        (Not that anything is wrong with owning guns, I still feel like slapping the idiots who banned hand guns in the UK, as if that stops idiots killing people, idiots should not be able to get guns even if they are legal!!)

        1. Nordrick Framelhammer

          Re: Ban everything

          Don't forget the "you are going to hell for ever!" sin of showing a nipple or a bit of female bum crack on television.

        2. david wilson

          Re: Ban everything

          >>"idiots should not be able to get guns even if they are legal!!"

          Arguably they shouldn't, though (unless you're equating 'idiot' with 'convicted criminal' or suchlike) how would you reckon that should that end up working?

        3. Tom 13

          Re: hand guns legal, but gambling must be banned???

          Not banned, regulated. I thought you Brits were all in favor of that.

          The reasons are pretty much historical. Gambling has a long association with organized crime, hence the heavy regulation. And since it is an easy way to launder money from other illicit trade, I can see proper regulation might have a place in this instance.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "ban everything"

            Did none of you actually read the article?

            The new legislation does not propose banning anything. It simply restricts the maximum jackpot in unlicensed sweepstakes games.

            As most of the clientèle are people who wish to play these games, this will have the result of reducing the amount of business they get. There will probably not be a need for nearly as many establishments to support the other kinds of custom normally associated with Internet cafés.

            People will lose their jobs. That is unfortunate, but the jobs were created in the first place by unlawful activity.

  2. LaeMing


    'swindling their poor, elderly, and vulnerable slot players' is the exclusive monopoly of the state and its licensees.

    1. perlcat
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Yes,

      Our government hates competition.

  3. Brad Ackerman

    Alternatively, the legislature could have solved the problem of illegal casinos by eliminating their current cap of four casino licenses. While that option has many reasons to recommend it, there is one drawback — if legislators weren't intimately involved in deciding who may open a gaming establishment, the opportunity for graft would be greatly reduced. In the eyes of a politician, that's one thing that can never be allowed.

  4. Dan 4

    According to Wikipedia, Ohio has a half dozen legal casinos open right now and building another half dozen by 2014, each with what looks like 1200-3000 video slot machines. I applaud the legislature's willingness to take a stand against the evils of gambling that doesn't line their own pockets.

    After all, legal casinos wouldn't be willing to exploit people who have gambling problems, right? And I'm sure the state didn't just slash funding to programs to assist people with addiction problems, as was probably mandated in the original proposal to legalize gambling?

    I swear you see it in one state after another; it would be a farce if it wasn't reality.

    1. Brad Ackerman

      Ohio only has four full-service casinos—two run by Caesars and two by Penn National. The remaining facilities on that list only have video lottery terminals. You could certainly call them slot parlors, but using the term "casino" is false advertising. (Unless every pub in the UK is now a casino.)

      1. h3

        I thought all the casino's in America (Other the ones run by the Native American's to keep them from going into organised crime) could be traced back to money from the prohibition era. America is very inconsistant sometimes they care about stuff for ages sometimes they let bygones by bygones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Surrender your apostrophe key now

          You have just read the word "casinos" about fifty times. There is a reason you did not see a single apostrophe in any one of those cases.

          Do you go through life making a continuous groaning sound due to the sheer effort of trying to comprehend visual input?

  5. Andrew Jones 2

    I'm confused - are these sweepstakes online or on local machines?!

    1. Don Jefe

      They are local machines, slot type machines mostly, although some of the newer ones have Internet connections for accounting purposes. Generally the machines are purchased in good size lots and placed in all sorts of places where the host location gets a cut of the revenue. The machines pay out in a voucher which is redeemed for cash by the bar tender or whatevers behind the counter. There's a 'guy' who comes round every day or so, collects the money & gives the host their cut. The 'guy' generally isn't very nice and neither are the owners of the machines seeing as how they deal in large quantities of illicit cash.

      These things are absolutely everywhere here in the States though, not just Ohio Internet cafes. Truck stops, breakfast houses, fraternal lodges and the normal shady pubs where you'd expect them.

      Disclaimer: I only know all this because years ago we designed a modular safe system for a manufacturer of the machines. The 'guys' were taking money off the top & they wanted to sell honest machines...

  6. Greg J Preece

    "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.

    Because nobody wealthy or under 60 gambles. Ever. Not once. No sir.

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

    ....By Senator Hughes, in order to get the thing passed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bipartisan , the scariest word in American English.

    I love the way they say that to make it sound like they are putting aside politics for the good of the American ( Ohioans) people.

  8. tempemeaty

    America sure isn't America anymore is it

    Seems to me the brain trust in the legislature in Ohio could simply ban gambling outside casinos and that is all they need to take down illegal gambling businesses. No need to make internet cafe's illegal. My guess is that they're just on the same page with Washington types that want the Internet stopped or regulated out of existence and this was what they could to do to do their part in that agenda. < Shrugs >

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: America sure isn't America anymore is it

      It is banned outside casinos already. I'm guessing the pols buddies are tied up in the casino business and/or he owes some big money to a casino and this is repayment of his debt.

      Whatever the case may be it is like banning dairy cows to stop orange juice from being sold.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ tempemeaty

      You need to improve your comprehension skills.

      Nobody has proposed banning anything.

  9. mIRCat
    Paris Hilton

    Oh Ohio.

    Didn't you know the internet is for porn?

    Surely you knew!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    if gambling wasn't banned in the US as a whole, they would get their fix without having to gamble on the global stock markets so much.

  11. Daniel Bower

    Welcome to

    The US of A - the Land of the free (unless it's illegal, which it is. Or will be).

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Why the slant?

    I notice a lot of posters snidely suggesting that the Ohio politicians are against the cafe gambling because they don't 'control' the cafe gambling. I refer them to,_Issue_3_%282009%29 where it indicates it was the voters of Ohio that allowed the casinos in. They did not allow the cafes to get around the restrictions.

    Further, what the frig is this (from the article):

    '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.'

    Exactly what was snipped out of that quote? Could it have been some inconvenient context? Sure looks like this San Francisco based 'writer' wants us to assume Jim is against the cafes in general, isn't it?

    Please don't sully the Reg with twisted crud like this, that's what MSNBC is for!

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Why the slant?

      I comment as a former Ohio citizen and holder of a graduate degree in Political Science. The voters of Ohio, under Issue 3, granted two to four companies the right to open exactly four casinos in precisely defined locations. At election time it was well known that there were exactly two such companies, neither based in Ohio, that were in the running. Worse, they put it in the Constitution, which properly only should describe the structure of the government, the way laws are made, and the limits of government action. See the U. S. Constitution for a reasonably uncorrupt example. By contrast, the Ohio Constitution runs to 124 pages of fine print, much of it cruft along the lines of the casino amendment, which alone runs to five and a half pages.

      The politicians were on board because of greed for the tax revenue lost to neighboring states with casinos; campaign contributions might have has some persuasive effect as well. The 52% of the voters who favored the issue probably saw benefits is (possibly) lower taxation - sin taxes always are easier to favor than others - and convenience - the gamblers no longer would have to go to Michigan, New York, or West Virginia. Some probably just thought that people should be allowed to gamble if they wanted.

      It is of some interest to note that the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a big booster in 2009, has published articles more recently suggesting that some are, in a sense, being "victimized" by the casinos. Presumably these are the same "poor, elderly, and vulnerable slot players" of whom prosecutor McGinty and Senator Hughes were so solicitous.

      1. Tom 13

        @tom dial

        The situation isn't much different in Maryland, although there the corruption is a bit more transparent. A libertarian running on the Republican ticket originally proposed allowing Pimlico racetrack to open a slots parlor as part of a deal to save the racetrack. But since MD is a Democrat only state, it didn't go anywhere until he was out of office and a Democrat could propose it. It similarly then went to public ballot to protect the polls. Only now it was 4 slots style parlors including Pimlico. Move through a couple more election cycles and then there's a proposal to allow all the existing casinos to expand into table games plus add a fifth casino (never mind that the tax revenues promised from the first four weren't materializing).

        Which means that while when I was a kid the only place in the US where it was legal to gamble was Las Vegas, we now have pretty much the whole mid-Atlantic region, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida just to name the ones I know.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Why the slant?

        the gamblers no longer would have to go to Michigan, New York, or West Virginia

        Or the riverboat casinos in Indiana, some of which are quite convenient to the Cincinnati area, for example. That was the problem: aside from Columbus, most of the major population centers of Ohio were close to out-of-state gambling opportunities, and many residents resented the (presumed) loss of state income. By 2009, that amounted to a majority of the portion of the electorate that actually decided to vote, and Issue 3 passed.

        Ohio voters defeated a measure to allow riverboat casinos back in the '90s (I was a resident of the state then as well), and if memory serves that's when the "limited casino" movement in Ohio really started to get some support. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act started the national rush to expand casino gambling in the US in '88, and even before that the state-lottery movement had spread widely. (The '80s also saw the development of multi-state joint lottery programs, which are hugely popular as a form of cheap entertainment where the audience does all the work.) The resulting expansion of casino gambling out of its historical enclaves (Las Vegas and Atlantic City) and the popularity of state-controlled gambling as a revenue source convinced many people that not allowing some casino gambling meant missing out.

        Gambling is one of the cultural forms that has seen cyclical reception in the US - like drinking and conspicuous consumption, for example. For a while public sentiment is primarily against it; then for a while it's favored again.

  13. Suricou Raven

    Gambling is destructive and ruins lives.

    That is why Ohio has a state-run lottery. Or more accurately, nine state-run lotteries, some of which can be played over the internet.

    Gambling is destructive and ruins lives, but only when someone other than the government is reaping the profits.

    1. JimC

      Re: Gambling is destructive and ruins lives.

      Well, there are those who would argue that outright prohibition does not have a great success record in the USA.

      If you accept that as being the case then how could you better make attempt to make a vice boring, unappealling and generally unattractive than by making it's supply a government monopoly?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my bank has "been linked to" illegal money laundering (is there a legal kind?), drug running and murder. any chance of getting it shut down?

    1. Suricou Raven

      "(is there a legal kind?)"

      Ask Google, Apple, Amazon, et al. I think they might know something about that.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ... and ...'We need you to pay the 'AT&T adds 61¢ 'Mobility Administrative Fee' for users'

    After 20 years working in IT in the USA... Kiss my lilly ass!

  16. Eugene Crosser
    IT Angle

    IT angle?

    Some Internet cafes in Ohio where running a side business of gambling.

    New state legislation would make such side business unrewarding (without affecting the main business).

    Some Internet cafes will become unprofitable without said side business and have to close.

    So what? Why are we discussing this, again?

    1. Francis Vaughan

      Re: IT angle?

      Upvote from me. Exactly the point. Seems half of the above commentators have trouble with reading comprehension. This isn't exactly helped by the bizarre way the article is written.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: IT angle?

        YES. The article starts by pretending that the cafes have become illegal, and so on. In fact that's not even close to what is being done. They're being cleaned up, not closed down. It's no different to saying they will be closed if they don't meet hygiene or safety standards. Like our FSA/ Scores on the Doors scheme.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: IT angle?

          In fact... "Ohio legislature has passed a bill outlawing that most foul of societal ills: the internet café." is what it says.

          And since internet cafes the world over get by without being gambling dens the article has no justification at all. It's totally spurious.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: It's totally spurious.

            And the author (and possibly El Reg) should count his lucky stars he lives in the US. If he lived in the UK and the politicians he was criticizing were UK citizens, he might just get sued for libel. Not that El Reg has been covering anything like that locally the last few days or anything.

        2. Tim Brown 1

          Re: IT angle?

          Totally agree with Terry 6.

          It's one thing to have a bit of fun with the headline but to mislead your readership for several paragraphs is disingenuous at best and downright dangerous at worst. For someone that only skim read the start of the story they might genuinely believe that Ohio is looking to shut down all internet cafes.

          Additionally search engines will pick up the headline and opening and almost certainly this article will now get misquoted by other people as 'proof' of the facility.

          Dear Register, if you want to be the tech equivalent of The Onion, then carry on but add something to your masthead along the lines of "don't believe anything you read here". Otherwise, grow up and make fun of genuinely silly government policy (it's not like there's a shortage) instead of rolling your own.

  17. tom dial Silver badge


    Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. (H. L. Mencken). Also see

    People enjoy (gambling | smoking | drinking | drugs), and left to themselves will engage in these activities to an extent harmful to themselves and others. Rather than limiting the proscriptive laws to the behavior that is directly harmful, the legislators, motivated partly by the knowledge, seemingly endorsed by the voters in the last election, that they are better than others, continue on to legislate against activities they think might lead to harmful behavior, and even thoughts that somehow make the bad behavior worse. Thus we get laws regulating gambling, laws against certain drugs that stuff our prisons to overflowing and indirectly bring about enormous harm in Mexico, and defining and providing "enhanced" sentences for "hate crimes".

    It does not hurt that there are financially interested beneficiaries in the form of casino and racetrack owners, law enforcement agencies, and private prison operators to advocate for such laws, or that taxes can be collected on the regulated products or activities. One always must ask: "qui bono" when evaluating the laws. In the case of squashing the internet cafes, it clearly is the owners of legal gambling places and the State of Ohio. It clearly is not the gamblers; they will find other ways and places, some legal (perhaps only for the time being), to satisfy their urges.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Government

      First sentence in second paragraph should read "People enjoy (gambling | smoking | drinking | drugs), and left to themselves some of them will engage ...". Fixes up the intended meaning.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Government

      Thumbs up for Great Mencken.

  18. BornToWin

    No legitimate internet cafe is being hurt

    As usual the knee-jerk reaction by the liberals skews the story to make authorities the bad guys for enforcing law. This is ypical unscrupulous shilling for crims.

    Legitmate internet cafes are not hurt at all by this new law. Spewing ignorance about this law isn't going to change reality. These cafes are operating illegally and they should be closed. If they want to run casinos they can go through the proper licensing and regulations that legit casinos have done.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: No legitimate internet cafe is being hurt

      > As usual the knee-jerk reaction by the liberals

      Liberals? Hey, Mr. Conservative. Your hat.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: No legitimate internet cafe is being hurt


      You seem to be a bit confused about politics.

      Liberal = support government/local authority intervention. Freedom seen as freedom FROM poverty discrimination, do what is best for society etc.

      Conservative (USA style especially, but increasingly UK too) = Small Government, i.e. oppose any kind of governmental intervention. Freedom seen as freedom TO live how you want, make money, do what is best for yourself, etc.

      So the (spurious) article is skewed by a *conservative* for "making the authorities the bad guys for enforcing the law".

      The rest of your point is perfectly sensible.

      1. david wilson

        Re: No legitimate internet cafe is being hurt

        Well, conservatives often *claim* to be in favour of freedom and small government, but just like other groups, frequently do want the government to impose their views (ie the 'right' views) on the population as a whole.

        Dislike 'activist judges', where 'activist'=='not agreeing with what they want'.

        Rail against 'red tape' as long as that red tape isn't personally useful to them.


        Just like many other people, their 'principles' often magically coincide with what they think (correctly or otherwise) will be good for them and the subset of people they identify with, but just like many other people, they often believe (and sometimes just claim) that they're thinking of the country as a whole.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: No legitimate internet cafe is being hurt

        Conservative Libertarians (USA style especially, but increasingly UK too) = Small Government, i.e. oppose any kind of governmental intervention. Freedom seen as freedom TO live how you want, make money, do what is best for yourself, etc.

        Fixed that for you.

        Conservatives on the other hand try to balance things along multiple axes to conserve the resources we and our ancestor have built up over the centuries. Overly large governments tend to be able destroy those resources quickly, so Conservatives will frequently make common cause with Libertarians to reduce its size. But on some issues, particularly as relates to crime and necessary social structures, we part ways with Libertarians while still not making common cause with Leftists.

        1. david wilson

          Re: No legitimate internet cafe is being hurt

          >>"Conservatives on the other hand try to balance things along multiple axes to conserve the resources we and our ancestor have built up over the centuries."

          I suppose all that maintaining privilege and the imbalance of power must keep one rather occupied, but only having one ancestor does seem to be taking 'keeping it in the family' to a bit of an extreme.

  19. Slx

    Sounds more like something you'd expect to hear happening in China than in the USA.

    Very strange stuff indeed.

  20. Dana W

    Seriously, Internet cafes still exist? I thought they went out with Windows XP, cheap laptops, and free wi-fi.

  21. Losmeme


    The Congress and major corporations are the biggest swindlers out there, yet you see no republican going after those evils. Such hypocrites.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What really happened, the lobbyist group for the "legal" gambling institutions paid more than for the "illegal" ones.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Internet cafes were not declared illegal

    What sensationalism. No internet cafes were declared illegal at all. Gambling at internet cafes was ruled illegal. The new legislation basically states that you can't have gambling at internet cafes with a prize exceeding $10. There's nothing wrong with this decision at all. Those who want to have legal gambling are free to do so as long as they obtain the proper licenses and follow the gaming laws. They just can't have gambling in internet cafes.

  24. Scott Broukell

    Presumambly ........

    Presumably they want to turn them into DeWine bars instead ?

  25. Kimo

    The Actual News was Boring... they hype the internet cafe angle. The local papers reported this more properly as a crackdown on illegal gambling. The practice of renting computers is still perfectly legal (there are some places near Ohio State that students can use, most of them in copy shops instead of coffee shops) and will not be altered by the law.

  26. Kar98

    Not quite.

    That's because these "internet cafés" aren't places where one would go and do some research on Wikipedia for instance or checks one's e-mail, but rather are very obviously fronts for illegal gambling for cash prizes. In the front section of the business, the discerning customer may purloin such essential computer hardware as CRT monitors, parallel port ZIP drives, ISA modems, or PS2 mices. In the backrooms, some redneck's mother-in-law is feeding her social security check into 30 year old arcade game for the chance to win tokens. Which in turn can be turned into cash.

    These places /call/ themselves "internet cafés" and computer stores, but really are just fronts for illegal gambling and probably money laundering.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Not quite.


      I think that's clear to all. But the point is the legal work IS about those dodgy gambling fronts and NOT about

      " that most foul of societal ills: the internet café" as the article does say.

      Internet cafés that *are* internet cafés will be unaffected.

  27. lunatik96

    Lobbying mate, they needed lobbying. If u don't pay, u can't play.

  28. Gil Grissum

    Tax em rather than put em out of business

    The legislature missed the point. They should've taxed the internet cafes rather than try to put them out of business. Make some revenue. Keep people working. Instead, a short sighted approach that missed the big picture (increased state revenue), is the direction they went.

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