Video Gambling Opposition Grows
Special Report - March 29, 2010
Officials at the North Carolina lottery are encouraging lottery ticket sellers to avoid the legal risks associated with video poker in light of a growing trend in video gambling often referred to as “video sweepstakes.” According to the Raleigh News & Observer, state lottery executive director Tom Shaheen reminded store owners who sell lottery tickets that a state Court of Appeals ruling from December confirmed such video poker machines to be illegal. Additionally, “any retailer who possesses and/or operates video gaming machines may be subject to criminal action by local law enforcement officials.” Shaheen also reminded lottery retailers that a conviction for “a felony or gambling related offense” would result in the revocation of their lottery license.
Shaheen’s letter comes as local law enforcement in a number of counties and cities have begun enforcing the ban on video gambling while another similar court case is pending. Kinston, Rocky Mount, and Wilson have all approved restrictions on sweepstakes cafes, where customers purchase phone or Internet time to gain access to games of chance. The Kinston City Council voted March 15 to regulate existing sweepstakes operations by limiting the number of machines in a single location to no more than 20, limiting hours of operation from 8:00 am until midnight, requiring that they only locate in specific commercially-zoned areas, and more than 500 feet from places of worship, child care facilities, schools, parks, recreational areas, tattoo and body piercing establishments, and adult businesses. Kinston’s planning board is considering approval of a $500 per machine annual license for owners to operate the machines. The Rocky Mount City Council unanimously approved similar zoning restrictions on March 22. In February, Wilson enacted zoning restrictions for sweepstakes cafes after issuing a 60-day moratorium on new cafes in December 2009.
According to Raleigh’s WRAL News, House Speaker Joe Hackney (DOrange) anticipates legislation to outlaw sweepstakes cafes when the General Assembly reconvenes in May.
“These so-called sweepstakes cafes are nothing more than a poorly-veiled violation of North Carolina’s video poker ban,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “They look and act like video poker because they are fundamentally the samea dangerous addictive temptation to separate North Carolinians from their money by enticing them to gamble it away on the astronomically small chance of a large jackpot.”
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