Contact Your NC Representative during the Weekend!
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Giving up, rolling over, sleeping with the enemy — call it what you want, that’s what will happen if North Carolina lawmakers decide to pass House Bill 1180 to embrace video gambling in exchange for a piece of the profits.
After numerous efforts to ban the highly addictive and predatory games beginning in 2006, some members of the Legislature are now calling for a Video Sweepstakes Entertainment Tax that would roll out the red carpet to the controversial industry while charging operators a license fee of $2,000 per year, a $1,000 per machine tax and taking 4 percent of gross receipts to help fund education and law enforcement. Even Gov. Bev Perdue said until upcoming court rulings make clear the legal status of the businesses, the state should “tax the heck out of them and regulate them.”
But the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said anyone who believes that video sweepstakes parlors can be regulated to the state’s profit is as gullible as the gamblers themselves.
“North Carolina’s venture into video poker revealed to us when it was legal the stripe of this insidious beast,” he said. “Despite statutes limiting pay-outs and the number of machines per location, operators of these electronic forms of gambling simply either ignored or circumvented the law. Enforcement was essentially impossible. Thus, one of the reasons the General Assembly felt the need to ban it in 2006, with the support of every sheriff in the state I might add.”
Nonetheless, House Bill 1180, sponsored by Rep. Bill Owens (D-Pasquotank) and more than a dozen other lawmakers, came to the table in the House Finance Committee on Thursday, perhaps in part because Republican leaders need Owens’ vote to help veto-proof their budget bill. Fortunately, the Finance Committee took no action on the sweepstakes bill, and Owens admitted to the media that had a vote been taken, the measure would likely have failed.
Supporters of the bill say since there has been no ruling yet from the State Supreme Court on the Legislature’s ban and since the sweepstakes parlors are already operating across the state and being taxed in some cities, the state might as well get in on the business.
“It comes down to whether we want to capture the revenue,” Owens told the media. “We might also slow them down a little bit but they’re going to be there.”
Dr. Creech said any legislation that gives credence to the games as a revenue stream will not slow them down, but encourages more and more people to open the businesses known as sweepstakes parlors, Internet cafes or pop-up casinos. Moreover, he says that once various government sources begin receiving revenues from this form of gaming, “it will be virtually impossible to ever get a ban on it.”
“Already North Carolina’s Council on Problem Gambling reports that nearly 90 percent of the calls to its helpline involve sweepstakes machines. What would it be like if these businesses are on every corner?” he said. “If this were to pass the General Assembly, North Carolina will have succumbed to becoming a gambling haven, with Las Vegas style casino gambling in the west, and the lottery coupled with sweepstakes gambling in untold outlets everywhere.”
He said trying to balance the state budget on the backs of the elderly and the poor, the two demographic groups most targeted by video sweepstakes operations, is disingenuous at best.
“A decent government doesn’t play its most vulnerable citizens for fools,” he said.
Dr. Creech urged Christians across the state to contact their lawmakers over the weekend and ask them to vote down any legislation that legitimizes the video sweepstakes industry or otherwise expands gambling further in North Carolina. He had issued an urgent action alert on the bill late Wednesday but also wanted to remind those who had already called or e-mailed their representatives to follow up with one more contact.
Take Christian Action Today!
Contact the office of your Representative immediately. Ask him/her to vote against HB 1180 – Video Sweepstakes Entertainment Tax. Tell him/her that North Carolina already has enough gambling.
The most effective approach is an email followed up by a phone call. Let your lawmaker know that you are deeply concerned. Make certain that your tone and remarks are always respectful.
To know who represents you in the NC House and their contact information click here. Then, click ‘Take Action,’ fill out or make any necessary edits to your information, and click ‘Continue.’ You can then click your Representative’s name to see their phone number to call their office, and you can click ‘Send Message’ to submit your written message to your Representative.