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'Chuck E. Cheese's' Defense Could Challenge Video-Poker Ban

Posted September 14, 2006

— What does Chuck E. Cheese's have to do with a video-poker ban? Some attorneys claim it is more than state lawmakers intended.

WRAL learned on Thursday that the video-poker industry will file a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on Friday challenging the phase-out of machines passed in the General Assembly's 2005-2006 legislative session.

Video-poker operators and players argue the law is unfair and confusing, and they want a judge to issue a preliminary injunction before the phase-out begins on Oct. 1.

Attorney Gene Boyce, well known for fighting the state, represents the video-poker industry and believes that with the way the law is written, some children's video games could be deemed illegal.

Boyce refers to it as the "Chuck E. Cheese's" defense and contends that the games at amusement centers, such as Chuck E. Cheese's, Adventure Landing, and Bullwinkle's, could be lumped in with video poker. The games, he argues, spit out tickets that are redeemed for prizes.

"It's questionable about whether these places are violating the law," Boyce said. "The law is highly susceptible to several interpretations."

Bullwinkle's manager Jason Crowley disagrees. He sees no comparison between the games but senses a video-poker legal ploy.

"To me personally, I believe they're just trying to save themselves," he said, referring to the video-poker industry.

Legislative attorney Howard Pell said it was clear that the intent of the Legislature was to ban video poker, "not kids' arcade games."

The lottery will also be a point of dispute. The anticipated lawsuit will argue that the state's new monopoly on gambling should not trump other games.

"There's no difference between the lottery and a video-lottery machine," Boyce said. "It's all gambling."

Boyce said he believes the state's agreement to let Cherokee Indians keep video poker presents yet another legal challenge. The bottom line, he said, is the future of businesses that rely on the games.

"A lot of businesses are going to be in jeopardy because of the way the law is drawn and written," he said.


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