COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio state judge should not have granted a temporary restraining order that allowed the maker of an electronic gaming machine to continue doing business while the issue of its legality is decided, Attorney General Marc Dann is claiming.
On Monday, Dann asked to stay the TRO, granted Friday by Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Guy Reece II.
Ohio Skill Games, Inc., maker of the game Tic Tac Drop, asked to be excused from an emergency rule recently issued by Dann because stopping its business would cause irreparable harm. Reece agreed, and Dann asked for a stay, which was denied. Now Dann is asking the Court of Appeals in Franklin County that the denial be stayed until his appeal is heard.
The company has a separate legal action that will decide if its games are legal skill-based games or illegal games of chance.
"Judge Reece granted the TRO based entirely on the rationale that the status quo should be maintained while Judge (Michael) Holbrook was deciding the legal issue of whether Plaintiffs' machines were illegal," Dann wrote. "Judge Reece did not make any findings indicating that Plaintiffs were entitled to a TRO.
"He merely stated his desire to maintain the status quo. But this rationale is faulty, because maintaining the status quo requires allowing the Attorney General's administrative rule to remain in effect -- not enjoining its enforcement."
Dann's rule states calling an illegal slot machine a "skill-based amusement machine" is an unfair and deceptive act or practice under the state's Consumer Sales Practices Act. It also provides a definition of what makes a machine skill-based, eliminating the existing ambiguity in state law, Dann said.
As a result, 700 Cease and Desist letters were mailed to manufacturers, distributors, owners, lessors and lessees of the machines. The letters state those entities had three days to remove the machines from public access or they will be sued by Dann.
Dann says the people of Ohio have repeatedly rejected attempts at making casino-style gambling legal, and a stay of Reece's restraining order is in the best interest of the public.
"If a stay is not immediately granted by this Court, the result will be a continuing influx of these illegal gambling machines into the State of Ohio under the guise that they are mere 'skill-based' machines,'" Dann wrote. "Such a constant -- almost daily -- stream creates a continuing harm to the general public and adds to what is already a mounting enforcement effort to rid Ohio of over 40,000 illegal gambling machines already in this state."
Earlier this month, an editorial in the Columbus Dispatch revealed that Dann has received more than $47,000 from gambling interests since he took office in January.
While in settlement negotiations with Dann, Castle King apparently donated $7,750 in January to Dann, which is reflected in his campaign finance reports.
His office had appealed a decision that found the company's machines were skill-based and not chance-based. Eventually, a settlement was reached, wherein Dann agreed that company supplied skill-based machines.
Later, the settlement fell apart as Dann accused the company of hiding information. In June, he called for more restrictions on the gaming industry.
A June report in the Columbus Dispatch says Ohio Skill Games has contributed $5,000 to Dann's campaign, and International Bingo Supply, which shares an address and chief executive with Ohio Skill Games, also contributed $5,000.