The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

October 28, 2013

Vet posts and lodges shutting down electronic raffles

COLUMBUS — Disavowing the “business as usual” recommendation of a legal adviser, Ohio veterans posts and fraternal lodges will begin shutting down electronic-raffle games deemed illegal by Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Bill Seagraves, executive director of the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition, said in a letter Friday to DeWine that Columbus attorney David Kopech sent out an email without “ authorization or review” by the coalition. In the email, Kopech urged vets and fraternal officials to continue operating the slot-machine-like raffle games until there was “risk to our program or our locations.”

Seagraves told DeWine that while Kopech still provides legal advice to the coalition “from time to time,” he has not been the group’s attorney for nearly six months.

As a result of an Oct. 16 order from DeWine’s office, “posts and clubs have individually begun the process of shutting down the electronic raffle program,” Seagraves wrote. He said that will be “painful in the short term,” because the groups rely on the machines for about half of their gaming income. Veterans’ groups have used the money to give about $5.4 million to charity in the past two years.

About 670 of the illegal machines are operating across the state.

DeWine told The Dispatch that he is giving operators another week or so before he begins dispatching agents to “start enforcing the law.”

Members of the coalition are continuing to work with state lawmakers, mostly in the Ohio House, to come up with legislation that would clear the way for the organizations to continue operating the raffle machines. DeWine’s office regulates gaming at the veterans posts and fraternal lodges under the state’s charitable-bingo laws.

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