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Bar Owner: Innocent Games Seized in Video Poker Raid

Posted August 14, 2007

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— A local business owner said Tuesday that the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office should raid Chuck E. Cheese restaurants if they're going to seize the games in his bar as illegal video poker machines.

David Hartzler, the owners of B.S. Jones Pub and Grill, was among 35 people cited with misdemeanors two weeks ago when state and local authorities raided dozens of locations across Cumberland County and seized 64 machines.

Video poker machines became illegal in North Carolina on July 1, when a phase-out of the machines approved last year by lawmakers took effect.

Hartzler called the games in his bar "glorified Nintendo machines." Patrons could play them on two Megatouch bar-top machines that resembled computer screens.

The machines had no card games and paid out no cash, which would make them legal, he said.

"No money ever exchanged hands, not here. We don't allow gambling in this place," he said. “If I’m going to pay out on $75 (in a machine), I’m an idiot for a businessman.”


But Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said a mechanism within the machines allows people familiar with them to tap into illegal games, including video poker and craps.

"Some of these machines, when you look at them, they look perfectly legal," Tanna said. But experienced players “know how to activate the gambling games when they get to the screen.”

Hartzler said he would have unplugged the machines if authorities had warned him they were illegal.

Authorities informed are business owners a year ago about the video poker phase-out and answered questions about the ban, Tanna said.

"If (Hartzler is) not paying anything out of this machine and he still had those gambling games on there, he's still held accountable for breaking the state statute," she said.

State law deems illegal "a video game based on or involving the random or chance matching of different pictures, words, numbers or symbols not dependent on the skill or dexterity of the player."

Hartzler's response to the law: "My interpretation of that is Chuck E. Cheese is illegal."

Video poker operators used a similar "Chuck E. Cheese defense" a year ago to fight against the phase-out of the machines. Because the games at the popular children's hangout distribute tickets that can be redeemed for prizes, the video poker operators contended they were no different than machines that rewarded poker players.


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  • shine Aug 15, 2007

    There is a fellow I know whos 16 year old son won $15,000.00 playing poker over the net....... What will they do to him ? That can't be any more legal than the article......

  • wife-of-a-concrete-man Aug 15, 2007

    Living in Cumberland County, I can assure everyone that there is FAR more crimes for Mr. Butler and his deputies to fight than seizing poker machines!

    This is a disgrace- these poker machines and/or the people who CHOOSE to sit down and play at them are not causing anyone any harm. There is no robbing, no raping, no murdering, no driving while impaired, no adultery, no child molestation, no assault... shall I go on?

    Certainly, Mr. Butler can find something other to correct than the use of poker machines!!!!

  • 68_polara Aug 15, 2007

    Wow... So this means that every "machine" that you can play card games on, even though they do not pay out cash prizes, are now illegal in North Carolina. This than includes all computers and even video game consoles because you can even buy card games like texas holdem for them. Big brother government just got a little bigger.

  • DC_Merlin Aug 15, 2007

    Ignore my last post, I found the revised statute here:


    and it looks like we're all in BIG trouble if we have any card games on our PC's that we bought by credit card.

  • DC_Merlin Aug 15, 2007

    Hmmm, very interesting..... I looked a little deeper and found this link:


    Either my computer monitor is really fuzzy or it looks to me like this whole statute was repealed effective July 1!! Maybe it's worth some further investigation from WRAL?

  • DC_Merlin Aug 15, 2007

    To ratnix - "State law deems illegal "a video game based on or involving the random or chance matching of different pictures, words, numbers or symbols not dependent on the skill or dexterity of the player.""

    The new law doesn't have the "payout" provision:


    If you read it quite literally, "For the purpose of this section, a video gaming machine is a video machine which
    requires deposit of any coin or token, or use of any credit card, debit card, or any other method that requires payment to activate play of any of the games listed in this subsection." means if you paid for your computer card game with a credit or debit card, then you ARE breaking the law.

    Fortunately, the one saving grace is that section 3 was repealed, and we can have "One" machine at any one location, which makes it OK to have one computer with a video game on it, but not two in the same house.

  • smitty Aug 14, 2007

    They confiscated megatouch machines? There are thousands of those things in this state. Have they busted Applebee's yet?

  • TooMuchGovt Aug 14, 2007

    Native Americans can run huge Gambling Casinos and the Governor can run a lottery, but a small business owner can't have a video poker game or a slot machine. Obviously the state can offer no moral defense for that situation. Just a bunch of corrupt power hungry politicians with no sense of shame who enjoy running other people's lives.

  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Aug 14, 2007

    From the President right on down to the small town cops... the government officials are trying to turn in to a bunch of power mad Nazi's...

  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Aug 14, 2007

    A mechanism in everyone's car can allow them to commit murder... the gas pedal and steering wheel... so, we better confiscate all the cars!!!