On May 30, Prosecutor Bill Mason unilaterally shut down the internet gaming cafe business in Cuyahoga County. It's illegal gambling, pure and simple, he contended, and 50 properties were told to shut up shop.
Common Pleas Judge Nancy Russo granted a temporary restraining order on June 13 that will allow four facilities, including MegaPlay Internet Cafe, to stay open as they plead their case that nothing untoward was happening inside.
There's a lot to process here, including the legality of the businesses, the prospective economic hit they'll take when their operations are shuttered, Bill Mason's right to cut off power, and John Kasich, who is seeking to further regulate internet cafes throughout the state.
But more important than all that: what about all the old people in Parma? Where are they going to go now?
The Sun News asked that important question and fielded concerns from the older generation in Cleveland's most famous suburb who rely on the sweepstakes cafes as social outlets. Sort of like the Copacabana, but with free sandwiches and phone cards.
Internet cafes also provided a chance to make friends. That was especially important for seniors who had become isolated and lonely, Fernback said.
“As we age, little by little, there are less things we can do,” Fernback said. “We have to give up things that brought us tremendous enjoyment just a few short years ago.
Fernback said many seniors are devastated by that loss. They end up confined to their homes.
Internet cafes changed that by giving seniors a fun place to go in their own neighborhoods, Fernback said.
“They (the cafes) gave us a chance to reconnect with one another while having some fun, enjoying a nice dinner, wishing each other good luck and celebrating with friends when Lady Luck sat on our shoulder,” Fernback said. “For a couple of hours, we were back in the mainstream of life.”
Dolly seconds the notion.
Dolly Parisi, a Parma Heights resident, agrees. She said hundreds of people, especially seniors, are angry about the Internet cafe closings.
“When these cafes opened, I became a different person,” Parisi said. “I’m not winning a lot but I’m having fun. I’m not thinking. I’m getting dressed up and getting compliments.”
It all begs the question: Bill Mason, what kind of monster are you?