The clock is ticking for local sweepstakes businesses which will have to dispose of their sweepstakes machines.
On Jan. 9, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office went around to local sweepstakes and Internet cafe businesses and distributed a letter. The letter stated that because of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s recent decision, law enforcement was giving the store owners 10 days to comply with the law.
On Dec. 14, the state Supreme Court ruled that the 2010 law that outlaws video sweepstakes, called N.C. General Statute 14-306.4, is constitutional and therefore can be enforced by law enforcement officers.
Officials said the decision to close down the businesses became effective on Jan. 3.
County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. said that he wants to give store owners time to comply with the law before law enforcement takes any legal action.
The letter, dated for January 9, 2013 states:
“Dear Internet Sweepstakes Owner,
“As you are aware on Friday December 14, 2012 the Supreme Court of North Carolina issued an opinion in two video sweepstakes cases, Hess Technology and Sandhills Amusements. This court ruled unanimously the North Carolina outlaws video sweepstakes is constitutional, and therefore can be enforced (by) law enforcement officials. January 3, 2013, General Statute GS; 14-306.4 made it a crime to ‘operate an electronic machine to conduct a sweepstakes through the use of an entertaining display, including the reveal of a prize’. It was also noted that any machines that have been ‘converted’ are in itself deemed a violation of the above listed statute GS 14-306.4. NC General Statute 14-100 is a class H felony to obtain property by false pretense. This statute may apply video sweepstakes machines that have been ‘converted’ and those machines that have not been converted.
“The intent of this letter is to request that business operating Internet Sweepstakes and converted or non-converted games cease operating and removing all illegal machines within 10 business day’s from receipt of this letter due to the present ruling by the NC Supreme Court. It is also suggested that you the ‘owner’ communicate with the law firm of your choice for clarity in the law,” the letter said.
S & K Appliances and Sweepstakes off of Mill Road, in East Rockingham, has upright sweepstakes machines. Tony, who declined to give his last name and the owner of those sweepstakes machines, said they were upright video poker machines but they were converted into upright sweepstakes machines. Tony said they will be trashed and no longer used.
Other businesses appeared to be closed, like EZ Access on U.S. 74 in Rockingham. A sign taped to the front door read ‘sorry we closed today’ and the building appeared to have been emptied of any sweepstakes machines.
Charles, who also declined to give his last name and who is the co-owner of Diamond’s Phone Store, has the upright video poker machines and is also getting rid of his machines.
He said the county is already hurting for revenue and this will only hurt the county further.
“If they don’t play it here, they’ll play it somewhere else,” he said.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.