House Passes Video Gambling Ban
Special Report - July 8, 2010
After more than two hours of debate, and by a vote of 8627, the North Carolina House gave final approval Wednesday night, July 7, to an enhanced ban on video gambling in the state. HB 80Ban Electronic Sweepstakes now goes to Governor Perdue to be signed into law. An earlier motion by Rep. Becky Carney (DMecklenburg) to send the bill back to committee for further consideration was effectively killed when members voted 6152 to table her motion. The law, which goes into effect December 1, 2010, prohibits conducting or promoting sweepstakes activities that involve gambling. The bill was prompted by a proliferation of sweepstakes cafes and parlors across the state that have essentially set up video poker casinos that require players to purchase phone or Internet time in order to gain access to the games of chance. According to bill sponsor, Rep. Ray Rapp (DMadison), “the industry found a way around [the existing ban] and [the legislature] had to fix it.”
Several members of the House wanted the state to legalize the activity and to regulate and tax it as a source of state revenue. However, the majority of House members supported enhancing the existing ban on video poker and electronic sweepstakes. Rep. Rapp reminded members, “This has been going on for 10 years.” He went on to reference the legislature’s actions in 2000, 2006, and 2008, which sought to ban video gambling after determining “that gambling is exploitative” and “wrong.” Other supporters of the ban focused on the addictive nature of gambling. Rep. Grier Martin (DWake) emphasized, “this is an industry that preys upon people who do not have a choicepeople who are addicted to gambling.” Rep. Rapp also referenced a report by the North Carolina Council on Problem Gambling, which found that every gamblers’ anonymous group in the state has seen a 75 to 100 percent increase in calls received with 80 percent of those calls specifying sweepstakes cafes as the addiction source. He added that the report was confirmed by the U.S. Commission on Problem Gambling, which said that North Carolina’s data was among the most troubling in the nation. Rep. Ray Warren (DAlexander) succinctly summarized the position of many of the bill’s supporters when the former sheriff told the chamber, “these machines of any type create a gambling addiction among our citizens, prey upon the poor, and create a problem in our communities.”
Both representatives who opposed and who supported the bill conceded that the sweepstakes activities currently spreading across North Carolina are gambling. Rep. Alice Bordsen (DAlamance) even referenced a phone conversation with a sweepstakes business owner, who repeatedly referred to the games as “video poker” and the computers as “video poker machines,” as he tried to convince her to oppose the ban. Rep. Annie Mobley (DBertie) told members that when she visited one location, “the screens looked like the ones I saw in Las Vegas when I was there.”
Rep. Skip Stam (RWake) pointed out the negative fiscal impact of these sweepstakes parlors. He argued that without them, the money that was previously being gambled into “a zero-sum game” will “be spent on groceries, … mortgage payments, [and] stuff, which will create [other] employment.”
“The General Assembly’s enactment of this ban on sweepstakes casino gambling is a huge win for families and the citizens of North Carolina,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Video poker is known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling for good reasonit is one of the most addictive and predatory forms of gambling, with a host of negative social and economic outcomes for communities where video poker establishments are allowed to operate. The members of the Senate and House who ignored tremendous pressure from the gambling industry to vote against HB 80 should be applauded for having the courage to resist the temptation to allow these sweepstakes casinos to continue to prey upon North Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Copyright © 2010. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.