Sweepstakes videogames that award cash prizes to winners remain a flashpoint for prosecutors and police nationwide. One statewide ban is moving toward enactment while clampdowns continue in other states. And at least one sweepstakes videogame operator has filed a lawsuit to defend the business.
In New Hampshire, spokesmen for Gov. John Lynch said the governor would probably sign HB 1260, a newly passed law that will ban sweepstakes videogames. The measure imposes a fine of $5,000 a day, per device, for violations -- and empowers local authorities to shut down sweepstakes game locations.
The New Hampshire bill redefines illegal gambling devices as equipment that "is capable of being used to play sweepstakes or games of chance and which discharges money, or anything that may be exchanged for money, cash equivalent, debit card, merchandise credit card, or opportunities to enter sweepstakes or play games of chance, or displays any symbol entitling a person to receive such a prize."
The state House and Senate both voted for the bill by wide margins. Sponsors of the bill described sweeps games as a form of unregulated, untaxed gambling that competes with legal and charitable gambling sectors. An estimated 200 sweepstakes videogames are currently operating in more than a dozen venues statewide, lawmakers said.
In Lockhart, TX, more than 100 players were ticketed for misdemeanor gambling violations on June 1 following the raid of four sweepstakes videogame establishments. Authorities also seized 160 computers and confiscated $5,000 in cash.
The sweepstakes game operators will be charged in due order, said officials. Police said the games resembled slot machines and have replaced eight-liners in many adult amusement establishments.
In Cleveland, OH, J&C Marketing LLC has filed a lawsuit to reopen its two sweepstakes videogame locations, according to a story in the Plain Dealer. County prosecutors shut down both venues on May 31, along with five other sweeps cafés in Ohio. State lawmakers passed a one-year ban on sweepstakes venues last month. | SEE STORY
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was expected to sign the legislation this week.
In Grover, NC, police said they seized up to 75 video poker machines from sweepstakes game locations in late May. Sweepstakes games are legal and hence were not touched, but video pokers in the same Internet cafés are illegal and were being used for gambling, said the police chief.