Multiple skill games businesses searched

The U.S. Treasury Office of Inspector General, Secret Service and Casino Commission were on joint “official business” at various locations.

Several federal law enforcement agencies, assisted by the Ohio Casino Control Commission, conducted searches Wednesday at multiple locations in Stark County.

Todd Weitzel, a supervisory special agent for the Internal Revenue Service, said his agency, the U.S. Treasury Office of Inspector General, Secret Service and Casino Commission were on joint “official business” at various places, primarily in Stark.

He declined to say why the agencies were in the area, and which or how many locations they visited. However, the operation appeared to be focused on skill game parlors.

Thomas Helmick, owner of Redemption Skill Room at 2824 Whipple Ave. NW, in Plain Township, confirmed his business was one of those visited in Wednesday’s sweep.

“I think the state has their own agendas,” he said.

Craig Casserly, a spokesman for IRS, said in a statement: “Law enforcement officials from IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, Treasury-OIG, FBI, and the Ohio Casino Control Commission worked jointly to conduct official business today in multiple locations throughout Stark County.”

Helmick said the search warrant presented at his business indicated it was to be executed by July 22.

That is the same date certain skill game operators are to register with the Casino Commission — those operators also are to submit an application for a state license by Aug. 21.

Oversight of skills games was awarded to the Commission under Ohio’s Casino Control Law, passed in 2010. Its authority became even more wide-ranging in a 2015 law passed by state lawmakers.

After July 22, all key employees, operators, vendors and locations of type-B and type-C skill games are to be registered with the Commission. That includes games ranging from crane and claw machines to those where players can win tokens or vouchers for prizes.

Another location involved in the sweep was Oasis Internet Cafe, inside a strip plaza in the 4200 block of Portage Street NW in Jackson Township. The applicant for the business permit required by the township — Thomas Ryan — could not be reached for comment. Two Plain Township locations – The Skilled Shamrock at 4225 Hills and Dales Rd NW and Canton Players Club at 4015 Hills and Dales Rd NW – also were part of the sweep, the IRS confirmed.

The Oasis has operated since at least 2013, when the township began to require permits for skill games, said Zoning Administrator Joni Poindexter. She said Oasis pays the township a $4,000 annual fee, along with $100 for each of its 26 machines for its permit.9

By state law, such machines must be based on skill, not chance. In short, they can’t be gambling devices. And among the restrictions on prizes: They can’t be cash payouts.

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