By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
January 20, 2017
ALAMANCE CO. – A lawsuit has been filed in Alamance County Superior Court, Thompson v. State of North Carolina that declares the North Carolina Education Lottery “constitutes an unlawful exclusive privilege” in violation of the North Carolina Constitution. It advocates by operating a State lottery and denying other forms of gambling, the State has created “an unlawful monopoly.”
The suit (filed December 29, 2016) is being brought by various persons and gambling interests, more specifically, electronic sweepstakes. Sweepstakes gaming essentially replaced video poker machines, which were banned in 2006. Recognizing sweepstakes gaming was inherently the same as video poker, lawmakers decided to ban it in 2007.
Plaintiffs include Janice Thompson, N.C. Citizens for Free Enterprise, Inc., Moore’s County Store, LLC, Pirates Loot Headquarters, LLC, Crazie Overstock Promotions LLC, Artificial Gravity, Inc., and Dennis Stines.
Defendants in the case are, the State of North Carolina; Patrick McCrory, in his official capacity as Governor, the North Carolina Lottery Commission; Alice Garland in her capacity as executive director of the North Carolina Education Lottery, North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (responsible for enforcing gambling laws), and Mark J. Senter, in his official capacity as Branch head of the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division.
The complaint argues the following:
“This lawsuit concerns the Defendants’ wrongful use of the State’s police power to create and enforce an unlawful State-owned gaming monopoly. Through the operation of the North Carolina Education Lottery (‘the lottery’), the Defendants have fully committed to operating a gaming business within the State for purposes of raising revenue – the very type of business that the State once claimed was evil and corrupted society. As the State has become increasingly dependent upon revenue raised by the Lottery, it has sought aggressively to increase revenue by enticing new customers to play the Lottery, and enticing existing customers to play the Lottery more frequently. Additionally, in furtherance of their monopoly, Defendants have used the police power of the State (through the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agency) to close down, through the use of force and other forms of coercion, all businesses offered by the Plaintiffs and others, which offer lawful electronic sweepstakes and rewards promotions, because Defendants believe such promotions compete with the Lottery and thereby reduce the Lottery’s potential revenue. In doing so, the State has acted without regard to whether the electronic sweepstakes or rewards promotions offered by such businesses comply with the law.”
The primary objective of the lawsuit is to get the court to rule that the state lottery is an unlawful monopoly or to legalize other forms of gambling that are not permitted in the State.
The complaint further reads:
“Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief validating that they may offer lawful electronic sweepstakes and reward promotions in connection with the sale of lawful products and restraining the State from interfering with those lawful businesses, and in the alternative, a declaration that the State’s adoption of a Lottery and enforcement of its gaming monopoly through its police powers has rendered all of its anti-gaming and gambling laws ineffective, and an injunction restraining the State from enforcing any of those laws under any circumstances.”
John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council in response to the complaint said, “This lawsuit simply represents the latest attempt by a desperate and illegal gambling industry to force itself on the citizens of North Carolina. The courts should summarily reject these baseless and ridiculous claims and uphold the state’s gambling statutes.”
The complaint sites a 1954 decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court, State v. Felton in support of its arguments. That decision read in part:
“Suffice it to say that one of the evils and demoralizing influences of organized gambling, legalized or unlawful, is its insidious tendency to infiltrate and to control those agencies of government charged with the duty either of controlling or of suppressing its operations. When revenues from gambling operations become a substantial part of revenues of a county, the task of cutting loose requires a major and difficult operation…Neither an individual nor a community can gamble his or its way to an enduring prosperity.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League noted, “It’s going to be interesting to see what the court says about this lawsuit. I really doubt that it’s going to advance. But if it succeeds, God forbid, it could open the state up to all kinds of gambling.”
“It seems to me the arguments being made BY the Plaintiffs go against them,” Dr. Creech added, “the State Supreme Court case that the Plaintiff’s site in support of their position essentially states that every form gambling, ‘legal or unlawful,’ is inherently harmful and tends to corrupt government. I would heartily agree with that 1954 ruling by the State’s High Court. But how is that possibly an argument for opening up the state to additional forms of gambling as they would have it? The answer is, it doesn’t.”
The Christian Action League urges you to watch for additional reports on this case in the CAL Insider or its Facebook page.