On Wednesday, Speaker Batchelder told the media that if the Senate would add an emergency clause to HB 7, a bill that would effectively make Internet sweepstakes cafes an illegal form of gambling in Ohio, he had the votes in the House to sustain it. Which isn’t really that surprising given that when it passed the House last month, it passed with the 66 votes (two-thirds majority) it would take to sustain it as an emergency measure. This is significant because as an emergency measure, HB 7 would take effect immediately after receiving Governor Kasich’s signature, and emergency measures are not subject referendum.
Now, the House had passed a ban on such interest sweepstakes cafe in the last General Assembly, only to see it stalled in the State Senate. Therefore, when Senate President Keith Faber announced last month that not only would the Senate act on HB 7, but that he was recommending his caucus return any recent campaign donations from the industry, it suggested a major change in the Senate’s attitude towards Internet sweepstakes cafes.
At least, that’s how it looked until yesterday. Less than 24 hours after the House indicated it would support making HB 7 an emergency measure that would insulate it from a referendum, Faber announced that he doesn’t think he has the votes to pass it as an emergency measure because it lacks sufficient support from both the Republican and Democratic caucus. The Democratic caucus disputes this claim.
One of the other interesting things Faber announced was that there would not be an amendment to continue to permit such devices to be used as a fundraising tool for veteran and other charitable fraternal organizations. Attorney General Mike DeWine has threatened enforcement actions in August against these organizations unless the legislature passes legislation making them permissible.
So in the end, Faber is saying that his Senate is poised to pass an Internet sweepstakes cafe ban, but one that will not create an exception for the VFW to use such devices to raise money for veterans and one that will be subject to a referendum.
Hey, you don’t think Faber could have picked up a few Republican votes with such an amendment? And how much you want to believe that a) the Internet sweepstakes cafes will mount a referendum and b) 98% of their campaign message will be focused on how the bill prevents veterans’ groups from raising money? Nah. Never will happen.
Crazy, right? I mean, it’s not like it was just a month ago that the Senate Republicans were said to be putting the brakes on the legislation and Faber was caught having a high-priced steakhouse dinner with the industry’s lobbyists, right? I mean, what are the odds that Faber’s just playing up to the media about passing a bill while perhaps making sure that it’s the best possible grounds for a referendum campaign for the industry? A politician trying to have it both ways? Couldn’t be.