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Court weighs NC law banning Internet sweepstakes games

Posted October 25, 2011
Updated October 26, 2011

— North Carolina wants the courts to uphold the 2010 law that attempted to rid the state of sweepstakes that use video-style games to reveal whether a person is a winner.

Acting Solicitor General John Maddrey gave arguments Tuesday in two cases before a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals.

In one case, the state wants the court to uphold a Wake County judge's ruling backing the entire law. In the other case, it wants the judges to reverse a Guilford County judge's ruling striking down part of the law as a violation of the First Amendment.

Sweepstakes game Judges to decide whether NC can ban sweepstakes games

"It's not a video-game regulation statute standing alone. It's a sweepstakes statute, a statute that defines types of sweepstakes that are not permitted or allowed," Maddrey said.

Lawyers representing business owners argued to the panel that Internet sweepstakes are legal based on a landmark case heard after these rulings came down.

"In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court said video games qualify for First Amendment protection, that video games are a form of speech," said Kelly Daughtry, a lawyer representing Sandhills Amusements, which was involved in the Wake County lawsuit.

The Internet sweepstakes ban took effect last December and followed an earlier state ban on traditional video poker machines.

Adam Charnes, an attorney for Hest Technologies and International Internet Technologies, argued that allowing people to click on computer screens to uncover potential prizes is a marketing tactic to encourage customers to buy Internet or phone time. The two companies, which market long-distance phone and Internet services that are sold at outlets across the state, were involved in the Guilford County lawsuit.

Prosecutors statewide have told police and sheriff's deputies to enforce only parts of the law that were upheld by both trial judges and close down casino-style games and those "not dependent on the skill or dexterity of the player." Other sweepstakes outlets or retailers have continued to operate by replacing slots and Pot-o-Gold with cartoon-style games.

There was no word on when the judges would rule on the case. It's possible that one or both cases could eventually wind up before the state Supreme Court.

23 Comments

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  • nowon_yuno Oct 26, 1:38 p.m.

    If it was a video game you should be able to press "up up down down left right left right AB start" and get 30 free guys

  • kermit60 Oct 26, 1:01 p.m.

    By what these people are claiming the Lottery, Bingo and the Stock market with on-line trading should be considered gambling also. They are the same, you put up or bet money on a number , letter or stocks in the hope you win by getting more money back than you put in.

  • krimson Oct 26, 11:37 a.m.

    When these businesses are run by private companies, its called "gambling" and its made illegal. When these businesses are run by the State, its called the "Lottery"...

  • awesomecards Oct 26, 10:38 a.m.

    I'm a big fan of various types of gambling, but the video game defense is ridiculous.

    When you display the outcome of a sweepstakes on a video screen, that doesn't make it a game. Games can be played, and there is no "game play" on sweepstakes machines. You press a button and get the result. Just as on a scratch off lottery card, you scratch the surface and get the result. It might come in a pretty package, but it is not a game.

  • disgusted2010 Oct 25, 7:50 p.m.

    These games are simply a tool of organized crime. The only difference between these operators and the Mafia is that the Mafia never had the gall to hire lawyers and sue the state to keep the state from enforcing the law. The annual take from these machines is enormous and the "industry" knows where to put their money to continue in their criminal enterprise.

  • trying2understand Oct 25, 7:44 p.m.

    This is rediculous. The stock market is the biggest scam of them all and as of late we are seeing this unfold but its legal. If you work and pay your taxes, then what you choose to do with the rest of your money should be your business.

  • Tax Man Oct 25, 5:22 p.m.

    The state should just require the sales taxes to apply to the use of these games, and require a report of all winners by name, address, SSN and winning amount. Let the people play, just tax them.

  • fayncmike Oct 25, 4:10 p.m.

    If people want to gamble why not let them? I am so sick of government regulating morality.

  • Sherlock Oct 25, 3:23 p.m.

    The state does not make any money off these machines.

  • Genie v2.0 Oct 25, 3:12 p.m.

    SIR

    It is NOT gambling! there is NO skill involved, the "tries" they buy are predetermined winners or losers just like the game pieces you get off of the mcdonalds fries and drinks.

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