By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Two steps forward, one step back seems to be the progression when it comes to battling video gambling in the Tar Heel state. Just over a month after the Legislature’s sweepstakes ban took effect, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 7 that gaming parlors can stay open while a lower-court ruling moves to the appellate level so long as the businesses are not offering casino-style games.
Guilford County Judge John Craig had ruled in November that the state had the right to limit video-based games that mimic gambling, such as card games, bingo, craps, keno, lotto, etc. But he also said that one subsection of the ban was too broad and infringed on free speech. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper had asked that the higher court issue a stay on Craig’s ruling so that the entire ban could be enforced until an appeals court can hear the case. Judge Craig refused to stay his own opinion and the Appeals Court followed suit.
“This ruling is a setback in that we had hoped the Court of Appeals would allow the entire ban to be enforced so that these parlors would have to close completely while the issue is being settled,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “But the good news is that there is still plenty that the ban is accomplishing.”
The state Attorney General issued a letter early in December telling law enforcement agencies that they should not hesitate to take action against sweepstakes operations that use electronic simulations in a video format that mimic any casino games from eight-liner to Pot-of-Gold. The letter pointed out that the law also bans the simulation of games that are of the same type as the games listed, regardless of whether they are called by a different name or have minor differentiating details.
Further, the Attorney General reminded law officers that unlike Judge Craig, Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled in favor of the sweepstakes ban in its entirety in a separate case involving Sandhill Amusements.
There is no word on when the Appeals Court might rule in the Hest Technologies case that first came before Judge Craig, but the Attorney General’s Office has asked the Court to resolve the issue as expeditiously as possible.