GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY - Police announced Thursday afternoon that all sweepstakes cafés in Greenville will have to close.
Greenville Police Chief Hassan Aden said during a news conference Thursday that all sweepstakes owners in Greenville have until Oct. 1 to close their businesses. Chief Aden said if they do not comply, police will prosecute them to the full extent of the law.
"These are illegal establishments with illegal machines and we are taking the appropriate action," Chief Aden said.
According to police, there are 10 sweepstakes cafés still open in Greenville. Police said they hand delivered letters to all the businesses, saying they're operating in violation of the law.
"The letter essentially says that the first offense is a misdemeanor and subsequent offenses-- those are felonies, it's basically an order to cease and desist or they will be prosecuted," Chief Aden said.
Chief Aden said when it comes to sweepstakes and North Carolina law, it's very vague. He said there was no definitive authority to what was legal or not, which sparked months of research to determine whether these gaming machines could be allowed in Greenville.
Greenville Police has shut down multiple sweepstake cafés, but some of them have remained open because of certain loopholes including pre-reveal software. The change in the gaming system allowed some businesses to argue that it wasn't gambling.
However, Chief Aden said that's no longer the case. He said two cases with sweepstakes using this pre-reveal software were ruled illegal in North Carolina's Supreme Court. Those cases went to the U.S. Supreme Court which agreed with North Carolina's ruling.
"That was one of the first times there was a definitive answer on whether these gaming machines with pre-reveal and gaming displays were actually truly illegal based on statute," Chief Aden said.
Chief Aden said District Attorney Kimberly Robb supports the move. He said she has assigned an assistant DA to follow all the cases involving sweepstakes cafés.