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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 7, July 2010, Posted On: 6/21/2010

NC Lawmakers Can't Agree On Sweepstakes Games

Marcus Webb
North Carolina lottery, Earl Jones, video slot machines, sweepstakes, controversy, gambling device, video poker, video lottery, amusement machine, amusement operator, coin machine, Entertainment Group of North Carolina, Bill Thevaos

RALEIGH, NC -- House Democrats, who comprise the majority of North Carolina's lower chamber, met behind closed doors on June 14 to discuss the possibility of banning a new generation of Internet sweepstakes games proliferating statewide.

Lawmakers were unable to agree on an approach, according to the Greensboro News-Record. Rep. Ray Rapp (D-118th district) and Rep. Melanie Goodwin (D-66th district) have proposed expanding the state's ban on video poker games in order to outlaw sweepstakes games. House Speaker Joe Hackney (D-Chapel Hill) has also indicated support for a ban.

But other officials, such as Rep. Earl Jones (D-60th district), favor regulation and taxation of sweepstakes games. A third approach, legalization and regulation of video poker as an alternative to sweepstakes games, is favored by the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, a trade association of operators.

Informed observers speculated that the chances of a ban on sweepstakes games passing the legislature during the current session appear about even, at the moment.

Various North Carolina district courts have ruled that sweepstakes games are legal under state law, assenting to the argument that a sweepstakes on an Internet terminal is -- in theory and in law -- no different from a similar promotion at fast-food restaurants. In 2009, a Superior Court judge in Wake County, NC, prohibited raids on sweepstakes parlors until the pertinent law was clarified.

In recent weeks and months, a growing number of cities and counties has imposed high taxes or fees on sweepstakes games or have revised zoning laws to exclude them.

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