Judge allows Ohio vets' raffle machines to operate

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio judge says veterans and fraternal posts across the state can continue operating electronic raffle machines while a lawsuit proceeds against the state's top law-enforcer.

Although some of the raffle proceeds go to charity, Attorney General Mike DeWine declared the devices illegal and ordered them shut down in October.

Franklin County Judge Laurel Beatty issued the order Thursday, the day the suit was filed. His ruling prevents DeWine, the Ohio Liquor Control Commission and any cooperating agency from taking enforcement action against the machines, while the suit is pending, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1joY7ZZ ).

Lawyers for groups operating the machines argued in the lawsuit that the devices are legal and that posts and lodges shouldn't be subject to criminal or civil penalties.

The Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition, which is leading groups involved in the suit, is represented by former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas.

Douglas told the newspaper that the intent of the litigation is to "defer to the Legislature and get them to clarify the law" so that no doubt remains that the posts can lawfully operate their machines.

The coalition has estimated the machines produce about $6 million for charity annually. Its leaders rejected an offer from the Ohio Lottery Commission last month to provide new state-sanctioned games that would have been guaranteed legal status.

As the posts await Beatty's ruling, they also are pushing a House bill to legalize the machines. The bill's language was crafted with help from the charitable law section of DeWine's office.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com