Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is a master at getting positive news coverage for doing his job. Among the best, consistent coverage centers on his efforts to rid the state of illegal slot machines used first in internet cafes, then in veteran and fraternal halls.
Well, looks like Ohio’s top cop is suddenly backing away . What’s changed?
- Former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett, a consultant to the company that makes that machines, has been urging legislators to help his client.
- Bennett has scheduled a Dec. 16th high-dollar fundraiser for DeWine at his home. A $500 donation will get you in the door. A $12,500 donation lets you co-chair the event.
The Ohio Associated Press disclosed the Bennett/DeWine connection and reported that the Ohio Lottery Commission has delayed action to finalize a plan to allow veteran and fraternal halls to install, legal lottery machines.
If the Lottery installs Lottery machines, Ohio could tell exactly how much was wagered, how much was won and how much is available for charities. If the illegal machines are allowed to remain, there would be no accountability. This lack of accountability has consistenly been raised by law enforcement officials who said the internet cafes invite money laundering and other criminal misconduct.
The AP story liberally quotes Bill Seagraves, identified as the head of a coalition of veterans and fraternal groups.
This is the same Seagraves to whom AG DeWine wrote an Oct. 16 letter stating:
“…we have had several discussions with the Coalition with respect to these machines. From the outset, this Office’s position has been clear—the devices are illegal slot machines under Ohio law.
However, despite our concerns, we agreed to postpone enforcement action against licensees that operate ‘raffle’ machines to provide the General Assembly the opportunity to address the issue through the legislative process.’’
Lawmakers debated—then passed—a law banning the machines. But the illegal machines remained in both internet cafes and the veteran and fraternal halls that installed them as well.
In the Oct. 16 letter, the AG’s office noted that lawmakers recently banned the internet cafes and ordered the coalition to ”immediately remove and discontinue” the machines banned by the new law.
“There are no longer ‘legitimate’ reasons for this office to delay enforcement. No bill authorizing the ‘raffle’ machines has been introduced for consideration,’’ according to the AG’s letter.
It looks as if there might be illegitimate reasons.
As the AP reported:
“The veterans’ coalition has an ally in former state Republican chairman Bob Bennett, a former lobbyist and sometime consultant to their group and its machine vendor, Charitable Management & Capital Group.”
Sources tell us that Bennett made a direct plea fellow Republican William Batchelder, Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives. And Batchelder agreed to help.
The help came in the form of House Bill 325, which would allow the groups to keep the illegal machines. Perales was tapped to carry the bill because he is a veteran.
Never before has the state allowed illegal gambling to occur – and fail to enforce the law – just in case lawmakers stepped in to decree the illegal ‘legal.’’