The casino regulator in Ohio is reportedly considering a new licensing scheme that would stiffen the penalties for any “skill games” operation in the state found to be paying cash prizes to winners in violation of 2011’s Casino Control Law.
According to a report from The Columbus Dispatch newspaper, the Ohio Casino Control Commission met yesterday in order to come up with a new “skill games” licensing system that would weed out the estimated 600 to 800 operations that are thought to be rewarding patrons with cash, which is only allowed at the Midwestern state’s four casinos and seven racinos.
The newspaper reported that there are around 7,000 “skill-games” operations in Ohio but the licensing project is not an attempt to target mainstream family establishments such as outlets of Magic Mountain, Chuck E Cheese and Dave And Busters. Instead, regulators are looking to stamp out businesses that pay cash prizes via what are essentially illegal slots.
“We’re not worried about family entertainment centers,” Matt Schuler, Executive Director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, told The Columbus Dispatch. “In order for us to be able to go after illegal casinos, we have to license everybody. Chuck E Cheese, Magic Mountain, Dave And Busters all have games where the outcome is totally dependent on the skill of the player [and] they only reward winners with merchandise and not cash. This won’t affect the way they operate.”
Schuler reportedly told the newspaper that the Ohio Casino Control Commission has been working to get rid of illegal operators and has raided and shut down numerous enterprises. However, the move to ban online arcades a few years ago saw many of these businesses re-brand as “skill games” outlets and continue on as before.
Under the proposed new licensing scheme, “skill games” operators that are found to be illegally offering cash prizes could be charged with a fifth-degree felony, which would be punishable by up to a year in jail along with a maximum fine of $2,500, while penalties would be harsher for repeat offenders.
“With this licensing scheme it gives the state powers that it hasn’t had the entire time that these purported “skill games” operators have been operating in order to target them and get them out of the state,” Andromeda Morrison, Skill Games Director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, told local radio station WKSU.
State legislators first attempted to tackle the problem of illegal “skill games” enterprises via the 2015 budget by giving the Ohio Casino Control Commission authority over the licensing and reporting requirements for all such manufacturers, distributors and operators. The regulator has since been working to enact safeguards piece by piece and has been going through the time-consuming process of submitting new rules to the state’s Common Sense Initiative, which is run by the office of Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor and the Joint Committee On Agency Rule Review legislative panel.
Schuler reportedly explained that the proposed licensing scheme is to involve no fees for smaller operations but regional distributors may be required to pay a duty of up to $20,000 with the whole system due to be operational by the autumn of 2017.
Columbus attorney Kurt Gearhiser represents many manufacturers and operators of “skill games” and reportedly told the newspaper that he agrees with nearly all of the new regulations being proposed under the new licensing scheme from the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
“I don’t think they want to put people out of business,” Gearhiser told The Columbus Dispatch. “The difficult thing they have to do is draw the fine line between Dave And Busters and Magic Mountain and skill games that are not legal. We want to put the bad guys out of business just like they do. The vast majority of people I represent just want some certainly that their machines are okay.”