Sunday October 14,2012 : NORTH CAROLINA HIGH COURT TO RULE ON INTERNET SWEEPSTAKES
Case revolves around a 2010 ban on video sweepstakes cyber cafe action
The legality of North Carolina video sweepstakes cafes that provide gambling services under the guise of sweepstakes is to be considered by the state's Supreme Court next week in two cases where the state is defending a 2010 law banning the machines as a form of internet gambling.
Cyber cafes offering the sweepstake-style gambling on casino-like games have proliferated in the state, raising concerns among anti-gambling politicians and action groups.
Patrons buy Internet or phone time that gives them the opportunity to uncover potential cash and prizes with mouse clicks on a computer screen.
Supporters of the concept claim that no gambling occurs because the prize or lack thereof is predetermined, and that rather than trying to prohibit a popular service, the state should be regulating it.
They claim that the state placed unconstitutional restrictions on the terminals "…because video games are protected by the First Amendment”, and because the state criminalized the use of those games because it believes they too closely resemble illegal gambling.
North Carolina state attorneys contend the offerings are games of chance and that no one has a constitutional right to operate a gambling business without the requisite authority and legality.
Reporting on the issue, the Associated Press news agency quotes state Solicitor General John Maddrey as saying in an opinion that the General Assembly has authority to declare which games of chance are legal. It has decided that the entertainment value of video screens combined with the chance to win a prize in a game of chance "…has the same seductive and deleterious effect as video poker and other types of gambling."
The state Legislature has been grappling with the legality problem for over a decade, arguing that the games can't be regulated; are addictive to players and lead to crime and family strife.
Earlier this year state legislators failed to agree on a bipartisan proposal that would have regulated and taxed video sweepstakes operators at state level.
Individual cities within North Carolina have taxing authority, and some have allowed sweepstakes parlours to flourish in return for city tax payments.