Group: Internet cafes ripe for crime
Feb 15, 2013 (The Columbus Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A new coalition has joined the fray over banning the more than 800 Internet sweepstakes cafes in Ohio, saying previous convictions of leaders in the industry show the potential for illegal activities.
Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, representing faith leaders and charitable bingo operations, is campaigning to ban or strictly regulate the cafes and is echoing the concerns of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine about the potential for the "mini casinos" to harbor organized crime and money-laundering operations.
Bingo operators also blame -- in part -- the Internet cafes for dwindling profits that fund scholarships, youth sports and charitable groups. A Dispatch analysis found that since 2005, bingo profits have been cut in half to $95.4 million.
Ohio legislators are considering a bill that would effectively ban the parlors, which sell phone cards and internet-time vouchers that have sweepstakes codes with a chance for cash prizes. Similar legislation passed the House in December but failed to make it through the Senate before the end of the year.
Columbus attorney Ian Heyman, a member of the coalition that represents charitable gambling groups, said cafe owners have approached him, seeking to create shell corporations so that money can be laundered without law-enforcement detection.
The new coalition also pointed to 2010 charges against Bryan Sanshuck, who is the executive director of the Internet Cafe Coalition of Ohio. Sanshuck pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of gambling and carrying a concealed weapon in Cuyahoga County.
Neither Sanshuck nor his spokesman could be reached for comment.
But the coalition's example doesn't apply to the entire Internet sweepstakes industry, said Roy Fankhauser, vice president of the Internet Sweepstakes Association of Ohio.
"Every business is going to have one guy with a charge in their background," Fankhauser said. " You're not going to judge the whole industry off of one guy."
Ryan Clark is a fellow in Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.
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