ROCKINGHAM — If you happen to be running a gambling operation, it would “behoove” you to shut to it down, Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons said Thursday.
The Sheriff’s office is free once again to enforce laws prohibiting the use of electronic gambling machines following a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of the laws that has been in effect since July 21.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed as “moot” a temporary restraining order by the Superior Court of Onslow County on the grounds that it did not have jurisdiction over the law enforcement agencies it blocked from enforcing the anti-gambling laws.
Clemmons said in August that he was getting reports of those operating the illegal machines but that his hands were tied due to the restraining order.
The injunction blocked officers from even conducting surveillance on people who may have been operating the machines, which are sometimes operated out of storefronts or in converted residences, according to Clemmons.
However, the restraining order did not mean it was legal for any one to operate the machines during the time between the ruling and its dismissal. Clemmons said that law enforcement had the power to retroactively charge anyone who used or owned the games once the restraining order was lifted.
He said law enforcement has not arrested anyone on new charges since they were notified of the case’s dismissal last week, but that they are now able to continue enforcement as before.
The restraining order stemmed from a March ruling, and subsequent July amendment, in a case in which the plaintiffs, Sandhill Amusements, Inc. and Gift Surplus, LLC, argued that the machines were lawful under N.C.G.S. 14-306.4 which defines an electronic gambling machine as one that involves “the random or chance matching of different pictures, words, numbers, or symbols not dependent on the skill or dexterity of the player.”
Gift Surplus claimed that it is offering gift cards through a lawful sweepstakes promotion that does require skill or dexterity, according to court documents.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.