By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
June 26, 2015
RALEIGH – Last week, as well as the first of this week, the Christian Action League informed its supporters that certain Republicans were aggressively seeking to bring up sweepstakes gambling legislation for consideration. Wednesday, Republicans caucused on the issue and decided against it.
Sweepstakes gaming essentially replaced video poker machines, which were banned in 2006. Hundreds of Sweepstakes parlors and cafes could be found in cities large and small throughout the state. Inside patrons would pay money for chances to win a prize by playing a casino-style game on a computer terminal that operated similar to a slot machine.
Recognizing sweepstakes gaming was inherently the same as video poker, lawmakers decided to ban it in 2007. The industry, however, was quite adept to adjusting their software and finding loopholes in the law to stay in operation. Former N.C. House Rep. Ray Rapp once referred to efforts to get rid of sweepstakes “like playing Whack-a-Mole.”
Lawmakers tweaked the law in 2010 to ensure the industry’s death, but even then there were court challenges that resulted in inconsistent rulings regarding its constitutionality. This made some sheriffs reluctant to enforce the ban and some district attorneys unwilling to prosecute, resulting in numerous sweepstakes establishments operating in defiance.
This month sweepstakes gaming suffered two severe blows. First, U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker for North Carolina’s Eastern District announced his office had struck an agreement with 5 sweepstakes companies not to prosecute them for their illegal activities, if they would no longer provide software to their parlors and cafes, and, if they ceased all operations in the state by July 1, 2015. Second, last week the state Supreme Court reversed an appeals court ruling that kept sheriff’s from enforcing the ban, clarifying sweepstakes activities were unquestionably illegal. These two incidents essentially rendered the industry’s death knell in North Carolina.
“This is one of the reasons I thought that any serious consideration of reviving this insidious industry would be a tragedy of tragedies,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We’ve won the war. This form of gaming has been the primary culprit for gambling addictions in our state. It’s rife with corruption and its nasty tentacles have a way of reaching into the offices of our leadership, leading them and us down a primrose path to hell. Bringing it back, in my estimation, would be like bringing slavery back. And quite frankly, I don’t think that’s hyperbole in the slightest.”
Two measures were filed to legalize sweepstakes gaming this year. HB 922 – Video Sweepstakes Regulation and Taxing would have basically made sweepstakes electronic gaming lawful by licensing, taxing and regulating it. HB 938 – Comprehensive Gaming Reform would have taken a broader approach by establishing a nine member gaming commission to oversee the state lottery, charitable and for-profit bingo, as well as legalize, license and tax sweepstakes.
“Fortunately, we know now that lawmakers won’t be taking up these bills. As one of our reliable sources told us quite demonstrably concerning this issue, ‘It is dead,’” said Dr. Creech. “Republicans are obviously still true to their Party Platform, which promises, ‘We oppose gambling.’”
Dr. Creech added he believes the many supporters of the Christian Action League who contacted their Representatives in the North Carolina House after receiving a CAL Urgent Alert, was what helped make the difference. “We are grateful to them for their zealous engagement,” he said.