By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
November 21, 2014
RALEIGH – Tuesday a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals hammered in another nail to board up sweepstakes gambling operations in the Tar Heel state.
The court upheld the convictions of sweepstakes café owner Richard Conoley Chapman and store manager Kawana Spruill from Edgecombe County. The two had claimed the sweepstakes games offered at their establishment were not in violation of the current ban because they used a pre-reveal system – a system that shows the patron the prize prior to playing instead of after playing.
The unanimous decision means the ruling cannot be appealed to the state Supreme Court, although the court could weigh in, if it at some point it chose to do so.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, stated the ruling by the court is good news for opponents of video poker and sweepstakes gaming.
“I can remember when former Rep. Ray Rapp once declared that banning this industry in our state was like playing “whack-a-mole.” Just as sure as you would knock down this insidious form of gambling in one place it would pop up in another form somewhere else. But with this new ruling by the courts, I think it’s clear video sweepstakes gambling is on the run now. There’s every reason to believe we are hearing the death gurgle,” said Dr. Creech.
The North Carolina General Assembly voted to ban video poker in 2006. But the industry came back in the form of sweepstakes gaming shortly thereafter.
In sweepstakes gaming, patrons purchase pre-paid cards giving them Internet time with the opportunity to win cash and prizes via games on a computer screen.
Lawmakers deemed the scheme by sweepstakes operators as just another form of video poker and every bit deleterious in its affects, banning it in 2010.
Since the ban went into place the industry has vigorously fought it in court. Nevertheless, in 2012, North Carolina’s State Supreme Court upheld the ban.
Still in some places where law enforcement has shut down sweepstakes cafes and made arrests, lower courts have acquitted the accused of criminal charges, causing confusion for police in various municipalities and sheriffs in some counties. Some District Attorneys have also been reluctant to prosecute. The result being that certain communities continue to allow sweepstakes parlors to remain in business.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper essentially spoke to this matter in a statement released directly after the appellate court’s decision:
“Video gambling has been a source of crime and corruption in our state and that’s why I joined with law enforcement to push to ban it,” said Cooper. “My office has fought for years to give law enforcement and prosecutors the right to enforce the ban and today’s ruling makes it clearer that they have the authority to crack down on this crime.”
Judge Wanda Bryant declared the appellate court’s decision was based on the premise that the video games offered at the Edgecombe County business required no skill or dexterity to win a prize, but were simply a game of chance enticing a patron to play.
“In other words, the court rightly determined that it’s a rip-off, a means of robbing the patron and illegal activity according to North Carolina law,” said Dr. Creech. “Law enforcement shouldn’t hesitate on this matter, District Attorney’s shouldn’t be timid. They should enforce the law and prosecute. Cities, municipalities, County Commissioners, should purge their communities of this scourge, making no accommodations for its presence wherever they continue to exist or wherever they seek to locate. The law that passed the state’s legislature prohibiting sweepstakes was drawn with very a broad brush and essentially covers any operation. Existing sweepstakes parlors carry on illegally,” he said.
Dr. Creech also contended that the new ruling by the state’s Court of Appeals gives churches and other concerned citizens every reason to pressure local authorities with confidence to reject, resist, and completely rid their communities of sweepstakes operations.