By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
January 4, 2013
North Carolinian’s who resolved not to gamble in 2013 will face fewer temptations thanks to the N.C. Supreme Court’s recent ruling upholding the state’s ban on video sweepstakes. Enforcement of the ban — passed in 2007, tweaked in 2010 and virtually nullified by lower court rulings that were overturned last month — was to begin in earnest on Thursday.
“This ban should be taken seriously, and enforcement should not be spotty,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Simply put, these places should close.”
Brad Crone, a spokesman for the Internet Based Sweepstakes Operators, told the media that probably 90 percent of the operators will shut down voluntarily, but that others would be looking for new software or gaming options that would not violate the ban.
The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association sent an e-mail to sheriffs across the state’s 100 counties reminding them that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the ban made it enforceable beginning Thursday and also suggesting that they familiarize themselves with plans from some companies in the video sweepstakes industry to modify their systems and keep operating.
“Some companies may ‘convert’ their sweepstakes machines to a different system that they allege may not violate the statute [N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-306.4] which has been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court,” the e-mails stated. “Sheriffs and other law enforcement officers who encounter any ‘converted’ machines may wish to consult with their agency legal advisor or local district attorney for guidance about charging violations of the statute.”
A legal memo released Dec. 14 from Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice, who is representing VS2 Sweepstakes System, insists their system does not violate the sweepstakes ban because they claim it does not use an “entertaining display” to reveal the prize.
“While the computer terminals in this cafe include a feature that allows customers to display entertaining simulations of games, these displays are separate from and are not used in conducting the Sweepstakes and therefore we believe they do not violate the Sweepstakes Ban law,” the memo stated, further threatening legal action against any entity trying to enforce the ban on the VS2 system.
“No doubt this industry is going to claim to have found one loophole after the next,” said Dr. Creech, who warned that they will use both the courts and the Legislature to push for a sweepstakes comeback. Even so, he said police and sheriff’s offices should be vigilant in moving ahead with enforcement as each of the hundreds of sweepstakes parlors that are shut down could prevent untold numbers of potential gambling addicts.
According to the Associated Press, Gov.-elect Pat McCrory said he expects the ban to be revisited “because of all the legal maneuvering and interpretations” by the industry.
Nine out of 10 calls to the state’s Council on Problem Gambling hotline are related to sweepstakes machines, according to Gary Gray, the council’s director.