Cuyahoga County Judge blocks ban on sweepstakes, all Ohio Cafes must register
RICHMOND HTS. - MegaPlay Internet Cafe, 5164 Wilson Mills Road, is back up and running thanks to a temporary restraining order granted June 13 by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Russo.
The restraining order temporarily protects the cafe’s owner, Bryan Sanshuck, and three other facilities against Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason’s cease-and-desist order issued May 30 that instructed internet cafes in Cuyahoga County to shut down.
Mason is trying to shut out approximately 50 cafes across the county on the premise they are engaging in illegal gambling activities.
Gov. John Kasich is also working to regulate Internet sweepstakes cafes and put his stamp of approval on House Bill 386 June 11, which places a moratorium on the opening of new cafes and entails registration requirements for existing facilities.
Sanshuck said he filed an injunction immediately upon receipt of Mason’s order.
The injunction was sent over to federal court, and then Sanshuck made a filing to bring it back over to state court, which was granted.
The temporary restraining order allows MegaPlay and three other cafes to open their doors immediately, including cafes operated by J&C Marketing, LLC. Remaining cafes in the county are still closed.
MegaPlay was closed for two weeks prior to the issuance of the restraining order.
Sanshuck denies allegations that his cafe engages customers in illegal gambling.
“It absolutely, 100 percent is not anything to do with gambling. We are a retail phone store,” he said.
Mega Play sells long distance and international phone cards, and when people put money on the cards, they receive free entries into the sweepstakes. No purchase is necessary, Sanshuck said.
“You could actually come in here and ask for a free sweepstakes entry, so you don’t even have to buy anything,” he said.
He added Mega Play’s phone cards are priced comparable to other large phone companies.
Sanshuck compared his business to McDonald’s Monopoly game, stating Mega Play’s sweepstakes program is designed to promote the sale of phone cards.
“You buy a French fry, you get a sweepstakes entry,” he said. “That’s exactly what it is like.”
“If people feel selling retail phone time is addictive, I think they should look at how many burgers and French fries are sold during the time that the Monopoly game is offered,” he added.
Although many folks sit down at a computer to reveal their prizes, Sanshuck said customers can open their entries right at the cash register. Customers also have the option of bypassing the sweepstakes offer, but since Mega Play offers free food and beverages, people often stick around.
Sanshuck said he is glad Mega Play’s doors have reopened, and he feels his business is to the benefit of the city.
“Not only do we pay the city of Richmond Heights to be here, but we also donate money to different organizations within the city,” Sanshuck said, noting Mega Play’s contributions to special city events and the Richmond Heights schools.
Councilwoman Miesha Headen said Richmond Heights brings in nearly $100,000 in fees from Internet cafes, but that could change if Mason’s attempts to shut down cafe gambling succeed.
As a city already in dire economic straits, Headen said Richmond Heights could be significantly impacted by the final fate of Internet cafes.
“The potential closure would be of disastrous consequences to us,” she said, noting the city cannot afford to lose another $100,000 in revenues.