GREENVILLE, SC -- The long-running "video sweepstakes war" in the Palmetto State continues apace with two fresh but conflicting rulings from local judges on the legality of the devices, and continued raids and seizures by law enforcement.
In Greenville County, Magistrate Charles Garrett ruled on Sept. 5 that sweepstakes videogames are not illegal gambling devices. The judge ordered the machine in question, seized last year by local sheriffs, to be returned to operator Play4Fun Inc. (Greenville), which had installed the device in a convenience store.
Garrett drew a sharp line between sweepstakes games and video poker, a $3 billion industry that was outlawed statewide by the Legislature in 2000.
The state Senate's Judiciary Committee chairman told local press outlets that he disagreed, labeling sweeps games "an end-run on the video-poker machine ban." Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens Co.) warned that unless sweeps games are decisively outlawed, they would soon pop up on every street corner in the state. | SEE STORY
State Attorney General Alan Wilson will appeal the ruling, said a spokesman.
In related news, Lexington County sheriff James Metts said his office has seized 21 sweepstakes videogames during raids of two locations and two private homes. A local magistrate subsequently ruled the machines are illegal gambling devices, said Metts. Local police have arrested two individuals in connection with the case.
Earlier, Metts returned $5,500 in campaign donations from sweepstakes industry supporters. As earlier reported by Vending Times, some local press outlets had questioned whether Metts was on the payroll of the industry after video recordings surfaced in which a political liaison in his office bragged about participating in a corrupt video poker business.