Bryan Cohen May 1, 2013, 5:03pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed lawsuits against three internet cafes Tuesday after they allegedly failed to file affidavits of existence following a statewide moratorium in 2012.

The lawsuits against the Van Wert-based A.J.'s Sweepstakes, the Wauseon-based Lucky Sweepstakes, the Austintown-based Winners Palace II and Gino Maurizio, the owner of Winners Palace II, allegedly failed to file affidavits as required by internet cafes. HB 386 prohibited new internet cafes from opening after June 11. Even if a sweepstakes establishment filed an affidavit, the moratorium would remain in effect if the establishment was not operating before June 11.

"While we suspect Ohio gambling laws are likely being violated at nearly all internet cafes in Ohio, the clearest illegal activity occurs when an establishment opens in violation of the statewide moratorium," DeWine said. "My office will not hesitate to take actions to shutter these illegal establishments when evidence shows they did not exist prior to the moratorium."

A.J.'s Sweepstakes, Lucky Sweepstakes and Winners Palace II allegedly opened new sweepstakes establishments in violation of the moratorium and failed to file an affidavit to certify existence. The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin the defendants from using sweepstakes terminal devices and a preliminary injunction to stop terminal operations while the lawsuit is pending.

DeWine was scheduled to testify on Tuesday on HB 7, a bill that would effectively ban sweepstakes establishments in the state. The Ohio Senate plans to vote on the legislation in the next month.

DeWine's Internet Gaming Advisory Unit helps local prosecutors' offices and law enforcement look into and prosecute internet sweepstakes cases.

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