COLUMBUS -- A group that wants to overturn a new state law restricting sweepstakes parlors has fallen short in its initial attempt to place the issue before voters in November 2014.
The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs needs another 71,000-plus valid signatures on petitions to qualify for the ballot, after they fell short of the 231,000 or so required.
Secretary of State Jon Husted certified 160,008 valid signatures from petitions submitted earlier this month. The group turned in more than 433,000 signatures, but county elections boards tossed upward of 60 percent as invalid.
Circulators have 10 additional days to gather more names. They must turn in additional petitions by Oct. 3, a week from Thursday.
"Tomorrow, hundreds of workers will begin gathering signatures to protect the thousands of Ohio jobs in the Internet Sweepstakes Cafe industry," Matt Dole, spokesman for the campaign, said in a released statement.
The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs wants to overturn House Bill 7, which banned cash payouts, capped prize values at $10 and required increased registration and oversight of sweepstakes parlors.
Proponents say the law changes are needed because sweepstakes parlors are skirting state law and constitutional provisions to offer unregulated gambling, with the storefronts often becoming havens for money laundering and other illegal activities.
But cafe owners say their businesses are operating legally, selling products (often phone cards) or services (often Internet access) to customers.
The law changes are on hold, pending the outcome of the petition effort.
A spokesman for a group that opposes sweepstakes parlors welcomed Monday's announced shortfall.
"It looks like Internet café operatives created voters out of thin air because Ohioans wanted no part of these illegal gambling houses," Carlo LoParo, representing Ohioans Against Illegal Gambling, said in a released statement. "Submitting more than 270,000 invalid signatures is no honest mistake. This must have been an intentional effort to deceive election workers."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.