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City announces moratorium on adult gambling parlors
Some Internet cafes are allegedly taking advantage of a loophole in Ohio gaming laws to operate unregulated adult gambling parlors, according to Columbus lawmakers.
Columbus City Council announced a 90-day moratorium to stop this activity from expanding. This is an extension of a ban approved last October.
The parlors allow patrons to play slot-machine-like devices to win items of value and also use computer terminals or stand alone machines to win “sweepstakes.”
According to City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer, Jr., the parlors are allegedly operating outside local and state laws and regulations. Two years ago, Pfeiffer and the Franklin County prosecuting attorney went after a business on West Broad Street.
“It was what we believed to be an illegal gambling operation,” Pfeiffer said. “Based upon the evidence we presented to the court, the court found that it was a public nuisance and ordered it shut down. Since that time it was based on decisions by the court that these establishments in Columbus and Franklin County are illegal.”
Councilwoman Michelle Mills said the venues lack regulation and have no uniform payout. This means operators can allegedly choose their own reward levels or make a machine never payout.
The Columbus Division of Police (CDP) reported some parlors have allegedly progressed to explicit gambling – and often became fronts for alleged drug and criminal operations, Mills said.
She added the parlors are also known to operate late at night, creating noise complaints and fearful environments for neighbors.
The 90-day ban is co-sponsored by Mills and Councilman Zach Klein. This will stop the processing of any application for permits in regards to the operation of new gaming parlors.
Mills said the original moratorium gave state leaders an opportunity to pass a comprehensive, statewide law to regulate this form of gaming. She added that has not happened, so it is up to local governments to protect their neighborhoods.
Klein said in the absence of leadership from the state level, the city has taken an affirmative step toward working with the city attorney to regulate or ban adult gaming parlors.
According to Klein, these parlors not only exist as stand alone shops, but are popping up in convenient stores and liquor stores citywide. Council continues to examine its next legislative actions.
According to Steve Dunbar, assistant city attorney, the vice section of CDP is investigating complaints into various adult gambling establishments. Vice has issued letters to cease any and all gambling activities.
The city attorney is reviewing each case and will file civil nuisance abatement actions against venues believed to be violating state gambling laws.
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