Skilled gaming machines or sweepstakes games seem to be multiplying across the state, and can now be found in storefronts, bars, and fraternal clubs. These operations claim that they are not gambling, but instead are selling phone cards or internet time and provide sweepstakes entries to promote the use of these products. The real purpose of these sweepstakes is not to promote the sale of a product; rather it is to get people to play the electronic machines, which are often unregulated slot machines. The operators of these machines answer to no one and often rip off their customers.
It is sometimes difficult, though, to tell if a machine is a considered a game of skill or chance. Local law enforcement have the legal authority to make the determination when they enforce the law; however, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is available to assist or lead investigations, if asked.
To regulate the growing industry and clarify the law, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine worked with State Representatives Marlene Anielski and Nan Baker to introduce House Bill 195.
Under the bill these machines would have to be licensed and would be regulated by the Casino Control Commission. Attorney General DeWine believes the bill would help in three ways:
- It would provide clarity for law enforcement because approved machines would receive licensing stickers from the Casino Control Commission.
- Legitimate charities would benefit because all organizations would be required to follow regulations and
- Consumers would benefit because they would be assured the industry is being regulated, like other forms of gambling.
The bill was introduced April 12 and is now pending in the Ohio House.