BRUNSWICK — City Council’s Planning and Zoning Committee is continuing to develop legislation to regulate Internet sweepstakes cafes while waiting for the Ohio attorney general to provide guidelines on the issue, Chairman Joe Delsanter said.
Council passed an emergency resolution Monday night to add two months to the city’s Internet cafe moratorium, which would have ended in mid-April.
Delsanter said the extra months were necessary to develop and pass legislation on the cafes. Any rezoning legislation must go through three readings of Council and a public hearing plus an additional 30-day waiting period before it can become law, he said.
“We would have run out of time with the moratorium,” Delsanter said. “We needed to extend it so there was sufficient time to put together any legislation for Council.”
Lisa Hackley, director of communications for Attorney General Mike DeWine, said DeWine will issue a formal opinion on the legality of Internet cafes and whether he believes their practices fall under the umbrella of gambling.
She said they are “actively working on the issue,” but do not have a timeline for when the attorney general will provide an opinion.
While there is no exact definition of a sweepstakes or Internet cafe, they are largely known for selling time cards or phone cards for customers to use to gamble or play games online to be entered into sweepstakes through the business.
The city has three Internet cafes. They were allowed to operate during the moratorium.
Hackley said the attorney general’s opinion would not be law but a guideline for local governments and prosecutors to use and would define more clearly the industry’s operations.
Delsanter said how the city proceeds will depend on DeWine’s opinion.
So far, Delsanter said the committee is working to come up with location restrictions for the businesses and possibly assess fees for them to operate but has not been able to determine a fair fee that would cover the expenses of enforcing the restrictions.
“We’d have to wait until we’d know what role the administration would have to set up in order to oversee this legislation,” Delsanter said. “Just based on the preliminary information, (the numbers so far) are insufficient.”
He said the committee still is getting input from cafe owners and other members of the community.
“We’ve tried to understand the business model itself as much as we are the dynamics of it and how we incorporate it into the community,” Delsanter said. “We certainly are trying to welcome everyone’s opinion.”
Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.