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Lawmakers need to address own ban on charity raffle devices

October 24, 2013
Salem News

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was right to delay enforcing a law that will be detrimental to some military veterans and charities they support. DeWine had hoped the General Assembly would allow veterans' groups and fraternal organizations to have an exemption from the statute.

Apparently, however, no one took DeWine seriously when he said that eventually, he would have to enforce the law. He is Ohio's chief law enforcement officer, after all.

At issue are state laws banning most gambling, except for that done under government auspices at casinos, racetracks and through the state lottery. Electronic raffle machines fall squarely under the prohibition.

But at least 670 of the machines are in use throughout the state. Many are operated by veterans' and fraternal organizations.

Most of the proceeds appear to go to worthy causes. Some veterans' organizations may need money from the machines merely to stay afloat. And during the past two years, the veterans' groups have donated $5.4 million in raffle machine proceeds to various charities.

Still, the machines are illegal. So, earlier this year, DeWine's office sent out letters informing organizations with the machines that they had to be removed by Aug. 1.

That date came and went and DeWine took no action. His position was that legislators were considering legalizing electronic raffle machines for veterans' and fraternal organizations.

Last week, DeWine's office announced it will go ahead and enforce the law, because the General Assembly has failed to address the issue.

Members of veterans' and fraternal organizations have every right to be upset, as do other Ohioans who see nothing wrong with a gambling loophole that would benefit worthy causes. They should not be angry with DeWine, however. He gave lawmakers ample time to act - and they failed.

Legislators should consider allowing the electronic raffle machines, with tight limits intended to benefit only legitimate veterans' and fraternal organizations. But if leading lawmakers do not signal immediately that the matter is being taken up, DeWine should proceed with enforcement.



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