CHARLOTTE, NC -- The North Carolina state Senate voted 47 to 1 on June 21 to ban sweepstakes videogames. Lead sponsor Sen. Josh Stein (D-Raleigh) said 600 sweepstakes parlors now operate statewide. Some industry allies put the number at closer to 1,000 venues. The only vote against the bill came from Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover), who sponsored a bill to legalize and regulate video poker.
The anti-sweepstakes measure now returns to the House, where its lead sponsor is Rep. Melanie Wade (D-Raleigh). House Democrats have a working majority, but are reportedly divided on the sweepstakes issue.
North Carolina banned video poker in 2006 and the state Legislature tried to outlaw sweepstakes games in 2007, but two separate district court rulings in 2008 have kept the market open.
Earlier this year, responding to a request by a pro-legalization senator, the North Carolina Education Lottery issued a report estimating that legal poker and sweepstakes games would comprise a $2 billion industry capable of raising $576 million a year in taxes.
On location, videogames running sweepstakes programs are hosted by remote servers. Operators sell time or sweepstakes entries to players who use purchased computer time to enjoy game-style "reveal" of predetermined game results. The reveal, which shows the outcome of a game, typically has the look and feel of a slot machine.
Last year, the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, an association of operators headed by Bill Thevaos of Owl Music Co. (Charlotte), lobbied for legalization of video poker as an alternative to sweepstakes games. This year, the group is advocating regulation and taxation of both video poker and sweepstakes games.