Barborak opposes bill to regulate Internet cafes, says too restrictive

LISBON – State Rep. Nick Barborak found himself in the minority by voting against a bill that would place significant restrictions on Internet cafes.

The bill passed the Ohio House 66-39, but Barborak, D-Columbiana, voted no because the proposed measure “would effectively shut Internet cafes down” by being overly restrictive.

Internet cafes are gambling-like operations that involve patrons purchasing cards for phone and Internet use. The cards are used to play a sweepstakes-type game from computer terminals that operate like a slot machine and awards winners cash prizes.

The bill, among other things, would restrict cash prices to no more than $10, which operators say would force them to close.

“It’s not that I think they are great institutions. Obviously, they need regulated. There is no virtually no regulations and the state has an responsibility to regulate them and to make sure they are not taking advantage of anybody,” Barborak said.

He supports a more measured approached that would empower the Ohio Attorney General to draft regulations to protect the public, but not restrictive that it would force the cafes to go out of business.

“There’s another bill pending in the House and that bill creates some regulations. It gives the attorney general the opportunity to write certain regulations … and also gives communities the discretion whether they even want these in their back yard,” Barborak said.

There are more than 800 Internet cafes operating in Ohio, including at least six in Columbiana County that Barborak knows of.

“There are some communities that say these are helping out. They’re filling storefronts, they’re creating jobs. They may be low-paying jobs, but they are jobs, and the dozens of storefronts that would otherwise be vacant are now occupied,” he said.

Barborak indicated he might change his vote depending if changes are made to the bill by the Ohio Senate that would seek to regulate these cafes “but doesn’t chase them out of business.”