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North Carolina Lawmakers May Ban Sweepstakes Videogames

by Staff Reporter
Posted On: 4/9/2010

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North Carolina lottery, Joe Hackney, video slot machines, sweepstakes, controversy, gambling devices, video poker, video lottery, vending operator, amusement machine, coin machines, Entertainment Group of North Carolina, Bill Thevaos

CHARLOTTE, NC -- North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney (D-Chapel Hill) said the state Legislature is attempting to expand the statewide ban on video pokers and may amend the law to prohibit video sweepstakes games if the courts fail to do so.

The North Carolina General Assembly voted to shut down the state's $2 billion video poker program, which awarded cash to winners, about a decade ago, and then followed with a ban on amusement-only pokers a few years later because state and local police said it was impossible to enforce the ban on cash payoffs.

In the past two years, North Carolina has seen what one operator called "a tidal wave" of sweepstakes games that can award cash prizes. 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, some cities and counties have imposed high taxes on sweepstakes games or revised zoning laws to exclude them. In Burke County, police raided and shut down 56 sweepstakes game venues; the chief of police said he regarded the devices as illegal gambling equipment.

The Entertainment Group of North Carolina, an association of operators, has been lobbying for regulation and taxation of video lottery terminals as an alternative to sweepstakes games. According to EGNC president Bill Thevaos, Owl Music Co. (Charlotte), the state could generate $480 million in taxes from legal VLTs.

Gov. Bev Perdue and Attorney General Roy Cooper are on record as opponents of legalizing video gambling.