The Ohio attorney general ruled this week that Tic Tac Fruit machines violate state law because they are not “skill-based” games.
Many bars in Brookfield, Hubbard and other towns in the eastern edge of Trumbull County have the machines that offer the chance to win hundreds of dollars in a sitting.
On the heels of Jim Petro’s opinion, the Ohio Investigative Unit vowed to begin citing businesses that hold liquor licenses and do not voluntarily remove the machines by Nov. 11.
“It’s our hope that owners of liquor permit premises will voluntarily remove the Tic Tac Fruit machines from their establishments,” Kevin Page, interim executive director of the unit, said in a news release.
“Once the moratorium ends, we will begin pursuing complaints and conducting investigations into places that are still in possession of these machines.”
A business that violates the order will be cited and could face a hearing before the Liquor Control Commission, which could impose a fine or suspend or revoke a liquor license, according to the release.
The Players Club Games of Skill, which has about 20 Tic Tac Fruit machines, opened this spring inside Southside Food Mart on U.S. Route 62 in Masury.
Brookfield Police Chief Dan Faustino said it is unclear if the business will be forced to forfeit its machines because it does not have a liquor license.
“It’s still just an opinion,” Faustino said of Petro’s ruling. He plans to talk with a county prosecutor before deciding whether to remove machines from The Players Club.
Petro decided the machines are games of chance because they have features that control the distribution of points and the amount of payoffs.
“These machines are programmed to guarantee a minimum rate of return for the operator regardless of a player’s skill,” Petro said in a news release. “Ohio law prohibits schemes of chance, which is exactly what these games are.”
Petro’s ruling does not figure to end the debate over the legality of the machines.
In April, the state Liquor Control Commission ruled that the machines operated by a Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge in Pomeroy were video gambling devices. An appeal of that case is pending in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
The machines work like this: Insert money, then press the “play” button, which serves as the equivalent of the handle on a slots machine. The video screen scrolls and stops with nine figures in a square box that resembles a tic-tac-toe board.
This is where “skill” is involved. The player has 12 seconds to decide which figure to turn into a wild card to make three in a row of certain objects.
Precise figures vary by machine, but on one, rows of hearts and spades are worth more than those of diamonds and clubs. Choose the wrong figure and you earn back little to none of the money spent on the turn. Completing a row of squares labeled “flip” and “spin” leads to bonus rounds where players can multiply their money up to 10 times.