2007-03-31 / News

Buckeye Lake Village to license 'games of skill'

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE- If you can't beat 'em, charge 'em. Buckeye Lake has followed suit with other local municipalities in charging a license fee for electronic gaming parlors, otherwise known as Games of Skill establishments. Similar to a fee schedule recently enacted by Newark, the ordinance requires the operator to pay an annual fee to the village to operate the establishment.

According to the ordinance, which went into effect March 1 - although Buckeye Lake Mayor Frank Foster said the ordinance, like Newark's, won't be enforced for a couple of months - operators of establishments with electronic games of skill or more than four billiard tables must obtain a base license from the village. The annual base license fee is $25 per establishment and an additional $7.50 per billiard table and electronic gaming device.

Howe v e r , a d d i t i o n a l licensing fees for games of skill establishments are much higher. According to the ordinance, an establishment with one to 10 games of skill machines pays $500 per year, those with 11 to 24 machines pay $750 per year, and those with 25 machines or more pay $1,000 per year. Also, all establishments with games of skill machines pay an additional $250 per year per game of skill machine within the establishment.

Exceptions to the licensing ordinance include billiard tables or electronic games operated in a private residence, or those operated by a fraternal or benevolent organization authorized to do business in Ohio.

Currently, said Foster, there are three Games of Skill establishments operating in Buckeye Lake, all of which must obtain licensing along with any new establishments that set up shop in Buckeye Lake. "It's not the intent to grandfather anybody," he said.

Foster said it's also not the intent of the licensing to discourage Games of Skill establishments from coming to Buckeye Lake Village. The revenue generated from the fees will go toward monitoring the establishments.

Kurt Gearhiser, an attorney who represents Ohio Skill Games, said legitimate games of skill operators and manufacturers have no problem with reasonable licensing fees. "We're all in favor of licensing," he said. Licensing lets operators know that their games are legal, said Gearhiser. In Ohio there's been great debate over whether the so called "games of skill" are legitimate entertainment or simply gambling--like a slot machine.

To Gearhiser, the difference between a game of skill and a gambling machine is obvious. "If the machine prohibits me from winning, it's not skill," he said, "and, it can't automatically award me a prize. Chuck E Cheese's may have machines that are not considered legal under (Ohio's) statute." For example, he said, some claw machines, where the operator remotely manipulates a small crane-like claw to grab small prizes, can electronically monitor how many people have successfully grabbed the prizes and loosen the claw's grip so it's tougher to win.

For most games, whether they are electronic games of skill or amusement park games, "you win less than you put in," said Gearhiser. Even at an amusement park game, a player may pay $5 to try to win a large stuffed animal. Should the player win, it's doubtful the game operator paid more than a dollar or two for the large stuffed animal. Electronic games of skill may work in the same manner, although the payoff is much greater. "People get all up in arms because of the size of the prize," he said. "They shouldn't."

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