Internet cafes should be honest about their petitions

Supporters of “Internet cafes” in Ohio are mounting a petition drive to stop a new state law that curbs the establishments severely. But instead of being honest about their business – gambling – some backers are misleading Buckeye State residents.

About 600 Internet cafes have been in operation throughout the state. Customers buy time on Internet-linked computers or phone cards and in return get to play casino-style “games.” Winners receive payouts.

If that sounds like gambling under a paper-thin disguise to you, you’re absolutely right.

Earlier this year, legislators approved curbs on the gambling dens. One, restricting payouts to winners to no more than $10, seems especially upsetting to Internet cafe operators.

They have mounted a petition campaign to get a referendum on whether their gambling businesses should be allowed to operate without restrictions. They need to submit petitions with 231,148 valid signatures by Sept. 3 to get the matter on the November 2014 election ballot.

According to published reports, some of those seeking petitions and donations are telling potential supporters the Internet cafes are not involved in illegal gambling. That simply is not true. If you are approached to sign a petition, don’t believe the claim for a minute.

Should the Internet cafe crowd collect enough signatures, it might be worth state officials’ time to investigate how many of them were obtained under false pretenses.

If Ohioans want to vote on the matter, fine. But the process needs to be conducted honestly, or not at all.