Sweepstakes businesses are a controversial topic in North Carolina. One day they’re allowed, the next they’re not.
It depends where they are in the state.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said "we have a law in North Carolina that these video sweepstakes machines are illegal." But as Greenville Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Joe Friday said, “it's a complex issue."
Since it’s so complicated, we’re making it easier to understand. Let’s start at the beginning:
1791- North Carolina prohibited public gaming.
1937- Slot machines were prohibited.
2007- Stand-alone video poker machines were outlawed.
2010- A law was enacted banning sweepstakes.
March 6th 2012- The appeals court ruled the ban unconstitutional.
December 2012- The state supreme court upheld the law banning the games.
Attorney General Cooper says “law enforcement now all over the state is enforcing the law.”
But some sweepstakes businesses are still open. That’s because counties are enforcing the law differently. For example, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office says when a town has their own police force, they leave it up to the individual departments to regulate sweepstakes.
One of those departments is Greenville Police. Friday says they’re waiting for a final ruling to come down from the state before they decide what to do. He said Greenville PD doesn’t want to “spend a lot of time and resources on something that may be overturned tomorrow."
The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office said they didn’t have to enforce the law because the sweepstakes in their jurisdiction closed on their own. In early April Onslow and Carteret Counties said they would bring charges against sweepstakes owners who don’t take their machines down.
On April 4th, a bill was introduced to the House that would keep sweepstakes open with new regulations and taxes. It’s House bill 547.
Wednesday a new committee overseeing sweepstakes businesses takes over. We'll have more on that in part II of this story Wednesday night.