COLUMBUS -- A group that hoped to overturn a new state law aimed at closing sweepstakes parlors has fallen short in its efforts to place the issue before voters.
The Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs announced Thursday that it was unable to collect the 71,000-plus additional signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
The group left open the possibility of lawsuits to halt House Bill 7, which bans cash payouts, caps prize values at $10, requires increased registration and oversight of sweepstakes parlors and likely will lead to most of the storefronts closing.
"With respect to the ability of Ohioans to continue to patronize Internet sweepstakes cafes in Ohio, legal challenges to HB 7 are under consideration by industry attorneys," the group said, adding, "As of today, there is nothing to announce in that regard."
Proponents of the HB 7 say the law changes are needed because sweepstakes parlors are skirting state law and constitutional provisions to offer unregulated gambling, with parlors 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 committee submitted more than 433,000 signatures to the secretary of state last month.
Only 160,000 of those names were certified as valid by county elections officials, well short of the 231,000 or so they needed to qualify for the ballot.
And petition circulators were unable to collect the additional signatures needed to complete the process.
"The committee is grateful to the tens of thousands of voters who signed petitions in solidarity with the 80 percent of Ohioans who oppose banning Internet sweepstakes cafes," the group said in a released statement. "Sadly, as a result of House Bill 7 going into effect, Ohio will lose thousands of jobs and state and local governments will lose millions of dollars in tax revenues."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.