COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Thursday his office will begin enforcing the state's new Internet sweepstakes cafe law.

House Bill 7, which was expected to become effective after referendum efforts were discontinued Thursday, gives DeWine's office regulatory authority over sweepstakes terminal devices used by Internet sweepstakes cafes.

Under the law, cafes must obtain a certificate of registration from DeWine's office and file monthly reports.

"Internet sweepstakes cafes have long had operations that raised suspicions of illegal gambling," the attorney general said. "Ohio now has a law which makes clear which activities are legal and illegal in these cafes, and we will not hesitate to enforce the law."

HB 7 also gives DeWine's Bureau of Criminal Investigation the explicit authority to look into gambling law violations alleged to occur at internet sweepstakes cafes.

The law also puts in place a $10 limit on the value of prizes, prohibits prizes in the form of firearms, tobacco, alcohol, instant bingo, bingo, lottery tickets, gift cards, cash or vouchers for any such items and draws a distinction between casino-style games played at Internet sweepstakes cafes and traditional promotional sweepstakes offered by retailers.

DeWine's office will send letters to all 88 county prosecutors to let them know of the cafes in their area.

"House Bill 7 certainly offers clearer guidelines for legal sweepstakes than what previously existed in Ohio law," DeWine said.

"Sweepstakes operators need to conduct their business in accordance with the law. We will be watching."

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