County prosecutor makes a decision that has serious implications for operators
Gambling at poker clubs and Internet cafes is illegal, and authorities will pursue gambling charges in attempts to shut them down, according to an opinion released Tuesday by Ohio’s Trumbull County Prosecutor, Dennis Watkins.
Watkins' opinion comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed against Liberty Township by a poker club that opened up in a motel and continues to operate under a threat of a police raid, the local newspaper TribToday reports. The club wants to test the law in the face of earlier conflicting opinions from a police prosecutor and Liberty's legal counsel.
Watkins made a pre-emptive strike Tuesday, saying that that he has the backing of all law departments as well as city and township police departments in the county for a uniform stand against illegal gambling.
''In short, it is illegal for anyone to conduct, operate and/or promote games or schemes of chance for a profit. All places of public accommodation (e.g. a hotel) by law shall not allow any person to make a bet or play any game of chance or scheme of chance in their business establishment,'' Watkins asserted in a news release that accompanied the opinion.
Watkins said he would not discuss any particular gambling operation. But ''because there has been some public confusion regarding the lawfulness of the recent opening of these activities, generally known as Internet cafes and poker clubs, it is important that everyone understand the position of law enforcement agencies regarding enforcement.
''Hopefully with this opinion, violators will cease and desist from carrying on illegal gambling in Trumbull County,'' Watkins said. ''Obviously, each police department will gather the evidence in each situation and - if the shoe fits - and the law is being violated, search warrants, arrests and prosecutions will occur.
''People shouldn't be in fear about poker or placing bets in a private setting,'' Watkins said, using home poker games or private bets on a golf course as examples.
Attorney Gregg Rossi, who represents club owners Craig Jason McCormick of Girard and Kevin Forestal of Liberty, said Tuesday night he had not seen Watkins' opinion and could not comment specifically on it.
"He is entitled to his opinion, but we believe he is wrong and we are not in violation of Ohio law," Rossi said.
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