RALEIGH, NC – When Gov. Beverly Perdue signed into law a bill banning video sweepstakes games in North Carolina last week (see story), she said any legal gambling market must be uniformly regulated. Subsequently, a Perdue spokesperson issued seemingly conflicting statements about Perdue's stance on the issue.
At first, spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said Perdue was not endorsing legalized gambling. But one day later, Pearson said the governor "would be open to look at legislation" to legalize video gaming again in the Tarheel State.
Perdue's ambiguous comments have reopened the poker debate just when gambling opponents thought the sweepstakes ban had finally closed the last loophole.
The General Assembly banned video poker in 2006, but an estimated 900 Internet cafés that offer sweepstakes-style videogames have sprung up in the past two years. These machines simulate casino games but, in effect, sell only time on the network and a chance to win a sweepstakes, which is why two district judges said they were legal promotions.
The state is facing a budget deficit of approximately $3 billion next year. But the North Carolina Education Lottery reported several months ago that poker legalization could generate up to $576 million in taxes annually.
State police, family advocacy groups, and religious organizations oppose legalization. Several newspapers in the state criticized Perdue for "waffling" on poker legalization and reopening the entire debate.