Ohio cracks down on illegal skill-game parlors

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Columbus Dispatch – Despite a multitude of legal gambling opportunities — four casinos, five racinos and lottery games — Ohioans continue to find places to gamble illegally.

But state investigators increasingly are finding those illegal gambling hot spots, many of which masquerade as parlors for “skill games.”

Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, said yesterday that his agency is investigating at least three dozen such locations. He said there could be hundreds more in storefronts and strip malls around the state. They are not limited to large urban areas; many thrive in smaller cities and towns.

Schuler said at yesterday’s commission meeting that his staff is working with state, local and federal law enforcement to find and shut down the operations, which are illegal under state law.

Matt Oyster, deputy legal counsel for the commission, said a violation for illegal gambling is a fifth-degree felony, punishable by a mandatory prison term of up to 12 months. The penalty goes up to 18 months for the second violation.

Last week, investigators for Attorney General Mike DeWine busted House of Skills, a game parlor in Mahoning County. They seized 54 machines after receiving complaints that the business was giving cash payments to winners, a violation of Ohio law except in casinos and racinos. Other busts have happened in Canton, Chesapeake, North Royalton and other cities.


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