I recently teamed up with state Rep. Bill Blessing from Cincinnati to work on a bill that passed the Ohio House to address concerns about gaming in Ohio. By gaming, I am referring to activities like gambling, playing the lottery and going to the casino. These activities, when done responsibly and administered fairly, can provide great enjoyment to a lot of people.
But it is important that a structure is in place to make sure Ohio residents have access to a gaming system in which they are not cheated or treated unfairly. This had become a problem in Ohio in recent years because of bad actors trying to find loopholes in state law that ended up hurting Ohioans, such as what were called “Internet cafes,” which were places that operated games of chance — some legally, some illegally — that were not well regulated. Ohio took a big step last year in outlawing Internet cafes so as to reduce the likelihood of Ohioans being cheated out of their money.
Part of Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennial Review, House Bill 491, sharpens the teeth of these regulations, as well as making the way gaming facilities are regulated more uniform across the state. For example, the bill would require skill-based machine operators and vendors to be licensed, and crack down on Internet café operators who have simply rebranded themselves while still performing the same illegal activity.
These regulations are not an attempt to shut down gaming in Ohio, but rather to make sure that the gaming we do have in the state is operated fairly, honestly and legally. When testifying in committee, Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, said, “To eliminate doubt and ensure fairness to Ohioans, consistent and uniform statewide regulation is necessary.” He also said that, despite the fact that many establishments are violating state law, enforcement of those laws is not up to par.
Gaming can be an enjoyable escape for a lot of people. But having a patchwork of regulations that are not enforced equally puts Ohioans at risk. We need uniform enforcement of the law, and that is what House Bill 491—along with other recently passed reforms — hopes to accomplish. This measure has passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is now being considered in the Ohio Senate.
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State Rep. Jim Buchy 84th District