Please let your voice be heard by asking your Senator to vote in favor of a ban – act now – at the end of this article!!!
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers trying once again to send the “Game Over” message to the video poker industry need to hear a message of encouragement from Christians across the state.
“Now is the time to e-mail or call your Senator and let him or her know that you support these efforts to ban ‘sweepstakes,’ ‘pot of gold’ or any other form of this highly addictive gambling that is leaving so many lives in tatters,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “The battle is heating up and legislators are under intense pressure from the gaming industry. They have generated hundreds of emails daily in opposition to any ban. We need Christian people across this State to act now!”
Presented as a proposed substitute for House Bill 80, the latest ban came out of the Senate’s Judiciary I committee Thursday and was announced at a news conference led by Sen. Marc Basnight (D-Beaufort) and featuring leaders from the law enforcement and faith communities. The full Senate is expected to take up the issue Monday evening.
“There’s just absolutely no redeeming quality to this stuff,” said Sen. Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe), who referred to the sweepstakes as “video poker on steroids.” He said at least once a month he hears about a family losing everything they have as a result of a Mom or Dad becoming addicted to the games.
“We’re going to keep trying,” Nesbitt said of the ban, the latest in a series of attempts beginning in 1791 to nip the problem of illegal gambling. “If we stop this and they find another ingenious way, we’ll stop that too. We can’t let this go on in any form.”
The General Assembly outlawed slot machines in 1937, cracked down on video poker in 2000 and instituted a ban to be phased in by 2007, only to have the practice continue to be resurrected in various forms. The new ban seeks to cover all bases and eliminate loopholes by prohibiting “any electronic machine or device or other mechanism” trying to skirt the law by “any subterfuge or pretense whatsoever.”
Crafters of the bill added language to keep it from applying to traditional sweepstakes used in retail promotions such as those on fast-food cups or inside soda bottle caps. They announced in the Judiciary I Committee meeting that the legislation had strong support from the Sheriff’s Association, the Metro Chiefs of Police, the League of Municipalities, the Attorney General’s Office, the N.C. Family Policy Council and the Christian Action League.
Sheriff Earl Butler of Cumberland County told committee members that that law enforcement needs “support and help” to protect the citizenry from video poker. He said sweepstakes cafes are not “a family type business,” but illegal gambling that is netting big money for casino operators.
The owner of a software manufacturing company based in Simpson, N.C. told the committee that he supplies sweepstakes software to some 88 businesses across the state that employ more than 600 people. He said there are other larger companies doing the same and that the state could “make a ton of money” by tapping into the profits.
Rep. Earl Jones (D-Guilford), who has joined forces with the video gambling industry and floated his own legalization bill last year (H 1537 – Video Gaming Entertainment Act), argued that video poker is no different from the lottery and that the ban would cost the state 7,000 to 10,000 jobs.
“This activity has gone on for four years and the sky hasn’t fallen,” said Jones.
But Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council reminded committee members that 5 percent of gamblers will become compulsive gamblers and “when you have a compulsive gambler in your family, your family is basically destroyed.”
He said if you use a drug analogy to understand gambling, lottery would be like marijuana and video poker, crack cocaine.
“We tried to regulate video poker in the past; it didn’t work,” he said. “… The best opportunity that we have … is to just make it illegal as we have in North Carolina, so that when law enforcement officials see these machines they know they are not supposed to be there.”
Though Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake), the bill’s primary sponsor, said he believes the video sweepstakes violate current law, recent judicial rulings have left the state in legal limbo.
“What we can do today is make crystal clear to the courts that Internet sweepstakes casinos are contrary to the state’s public policy,” he said.
“Internet and sweepstakes casinos are popping up all across our state, targeting low-income communities, and they are wreaking havoc on North Carolina families and communities,” he told the committee, adding at the press conference, “We will not tolerate this type of exploitation in our state.”
Rev. Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League said, “This form of gambling is extremely predatory and far removed, not only from Christian values, but the values, in general, of the citizens of North Carolina.” He reminded the crowd that, during the years it was legal, video poker produced corruption even in the halls of government.
Creech said he expects churches across the state to put aside theological or philosophical differences to unite behind the ban. He is calling on Christians to immediately contact their legislators to urge them to support the ban and thank them for doing so. Already many lawmakers are being targeted by the sweepstakes industry.
Stein said he had heard reports of a woman being offered $10 per e-mail to contact certain lawmakers, tell them she was employed in video gaming and urged them to vote no on the ban.
If approved, the bill will take affect Dec. 1.
Take Christian Action: With just a click of a mouse you can contact your State Senator immediately, asking him/her to support HB 80 –Ban Electronic Sweepstakes. This is your opportunity to help prevent the destruction of many families ravaged by a gambling addiction, as well as help those that are already suffering. Help stop this corruption from spreading any further. To stop it now click here
To listen to the audio of the Senate Judiciary I Committee Meeting click here
To listen to the audio of the Press Conference concerning Sen. Josh Stein’s bill to ban video gambling click here