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Senate approves bill banning Internet cafes in Ohio

By DEBRA TOBIN Logan Daily News Reporter This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

LOGAN — “These are tribal businesses,” said Red Door Internet Café owner Marshal Lucas “Dancing Elk” on Wednesday. “The state has no right to regulate or has no jurisdictional powers over Indian trade.”

These strong words were spoken by Elk when he received news that the Ohio Senate approved a bill designed to put all of Ohio’s Internet cafés out of business.

“According to the Indian Gaming Act, the state has no jurisdiction and it’s a federal matter. I’m going to continue to operate on my behalf, the tribe’s behalf and tribe’s people’s behalf,” Elk noted. Ohio is home to some 800 plus Internet café businesses, which could soon be forced to close their doors. Elk has proclaimed to keep his storefront open regardless.

“To molest my commerce has been an ongoing violation of the Greenville Treaty and the U.S. Constitution,” Elk stated. “Basically it’s been an ongoing affair and I’m willing to stand by.” Elk is adamant in regard to the government trying to regulate the Internet café businesses and vows not to go down without a fight.

“I’m going to call my attorney and see where we stand,” he said.

Throughout the course of his business, Elk feels he’s been a target not only from the state, but also local government. His problems began when he relocated Red Door from his Spring Street address to 54 E. Main St., a building owned by Mike Nihiser.

Nihiser’s building was not in compliance with the Ohio Department of Commerce and after months of fighting, Elk was forced to move once again. He is now located at 44 E. Main St., in a building owned by Eastgate Properties.

However, that building now comes under attack, as the building owner has not yet applied for a change of use permit from the Ohio Department of Commerce. In a letter dated April 17 to the property owner, Logan Fire Chief Brian Robertson gave a 45-day notice to Eastgate Properties to apply for the change of use.

In addition to these problems, Elk now faces having his business closed once Gov. John Kasich signs the bill that was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Supporters of the bill to ban Internet café businesses have argued that the 800 plus cafes operating throughout the state are conducting illegal gambling operations, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and other law enforcement refer to the Internet cafes as a home to other illegal activity such as money laundering.

The bill was approved 27 to 6, and was not approved with an emergency clause, meaning café operators and software providers could attempt to collect signatures for an effort to overturn the bill. Some argue the state should regulate the businesses and collect taxes and fees rather than close them down.

Sen. John Eklund (R — Chardon) said they are all illegal gambling under the current law. Also before the House is a one-year extension of the moratorium on the opening of new Internet cafes, and more extensive registration requirements for owners who must file with the attorney general’s office, and is expected to be approved.

“Basically, laws are laws and our responsibility is to make sure they are followed,” said Logan City Mayor Martin Irvine.

The Red Door is the only Internet café within the city of Logan. This bill will not affect the Logan Skilled Games on Spring Street.

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