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NC Attorney General: Sweeps Ban Partly Valid; Ruling To Be Appealed

Posted On: 12/7/2010

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RALEIGH, NC -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper issued an advisory letter on Dec. 2 informing law enforcement that most of the state's Dec. 1 ban on video sweepstakes machines remains in effect, despite conflicting rulings last month from two different superior court judges. [see story]

Police are free to crack down on sweepstakes videogames that feature casino-style gameplay such as poker, keno or slots simulations in the reveal phase, the advisory letter said.

Surprisingly, the letter also said that police might shut down sweepstakes games that are "not dependent on the skill or dexterity of the player." This proviso appears to undermine the very concept of a sweepstakes, which by definition has nothing to do with skill.

The advisory letter was sent to North Carolina's state secretary of crime control and public safety, Reuben F. Young, and Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page.

Davis also said that the attorney general's office is appealing a Nov. 22 ruling by Greensboro Judge John Craig III, who found that sweepstakes videogames warrant some First Amendment protection.

A number of Internet cafés and sweepstakes videogame parlors remained open even after the Dec. 1 ban took effect.

Operators of those sweepstakes terminals said the software of their games has been modified to comply either with the new law, which targets only "server-based" games, or with the Nov. 22 ruling, which carved out an exception for sweepstakes that feature an arcade-style game reveal phase.

Cooper followed up his office's advisory letter by releasing a prepared statement: "The courts and the Legislature need to give local law enforcement clearer direction so they can enforce the law effectively. Attorneys with my office will continue to defend vigorously the ban on video gambling."

Various estimates have put the number of sweepstakes games in North Carolina at around 3,000 devices installed in 1,000 locations statewide. Several thousand jobs may be involved in the industry, observers believe.