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Issue Date: Vol. 51, No. 5, May 2011, Posted On: 5/4/2011

Sweepstakes Videogames Spur Debate In Tennessee

Marcus Webb
electronic sweepstakes game, sweepstakes video game, video gaming, Keith Heflin, Worlds of Games, phonce card vending machine, phoneUS, Freespin, amusement business

SHELBYVILLE, TN -- Police raided 10 convenience stores here in late April, seizing $27,000 in cash and 48 card-dispensing machines that also offer sweepstakes games with cash awards.

According to a story in the Times-Gazette, the city's district attorney has charged the machines' owner, local operator Keith Heflin of Worlds of Games, with criminal gambling offenses. The case will have its initial hearing on May 5.

Helfin's attorney said the gambling laws are being misapplied. He filed for a temporary injunction to have the venders returned.

The seized machines included phoneUS, which vends phone cards, and Freespin, which vends collectible cards. Heflin's attorney described the enterprise as offering "games of chance and skill" for promotional purposes, not unlike the McDonald's sweepstakes games that are used to promote hamburger sales.

The attorney also argued that if the activities in question were illegal, the state revenue department would not be taxing the operator for them. He accused the DA of possessing "Alice in Wonderland" illogic.

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