State News

Appellate judges weigh fairness of video poker ban

Posted October 14, 2009

— An attorney for an amusement machine vendor said Wednesday that North Carolina lacks a consistent public policy when it allows Cherokee Indians to have video poker but bans the machines everywhere else.

Lawyers for the state and the vendor traded arguments before the state Court of Appeals over the legality of a 2006 state law that made machines illegal except on the Cherokee reservation in western North Carolina.

A video poker machine N.C. video poker ban goes before appeals court

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning overturned the law in February, saying the exemption for the Cherokees violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act..

Gaming vendor Chase Brooks said after Wednesday's court hearing that the state should apply the same rules to everyone.

"It ought to be applied evenly across the state to give all these businessmen an opportunity for that local revenue," Brooks said.

In addition to the lawsuit, the video poker industry has lobbied for legislation that would bring the machines back to North Carolina by cutting the state in on tax revenue that could be collected by regulating video poker.

Special Deputy Attorney General Mark Davis argued Wednesday that the ban is legal and consistent with the federal gambling act. Federal law gives the Cherokees sovereignty, and a state compact with the Cherokees protects their gaming rights on the reservation.

The three-member appellate panel peppered Hugh Stevens, the attorney for video poker vendors, over the Indian gambling law, but Stevens said the case boils down to a matter of fairness.

"The legislature has now said that this behavior is criminal behavior for everyone in North Carolina except for this Indian tribe. To me, that brings into play a fundamental question of what is the public policy," Stevens said.

"I think the legislature settled (the public policy question) when they made the law that it's illegal to have video poker outside the Indian reservation," Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said after the court hearing.

Butler was among several sheriffs to attend the hearing. Law enforcement officers battled illegal payouts to video poker players for years before the machines were banned.

"We were up here today to put a face to it because of the tragedies and things that go on behind video poker," Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said.

"We just want to get this settled once and for all as sheriffs that it's illegal in the state of North Carolina to have these machines," Butler said.

Cherokee Chief Michell Hicks warned that opening the door to games elsewhere would cause economic harm to the tribe and the region near the reservation.

"Eighty-two percent of our employees are non-members of the tribe. So, there's a vested interest in western North Carolina on this particular issue," Hicks said.

It could be weeks or months before the judges rule.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Sidekick Oct 14, 2009

    Take a chance to win some money or stuff. Play a game or select items on a touch screen. Scratch off a card, Lottery, McDonald's monopoly, Subway's scrabble. Go play at the state fair. Gambling is illegal in NC.

  • Professor Oct 14, 2009

    What for! We have the lottery.

  • ncwebguy Oct 14, 2009

    What are they doing about the "intenet sweepsstakes" centers that have been popping up? Nothing, even though they are as bad/worse than video poker ever was.

    All lottery games -- scratch off tickets, pick 3/4/5, and powerball are slow, no skill versions of video poker.

    The state wants to keep independent video poker out so they can eventually implement video lottery terminals which will offer similar games. The lottery commission is already moving in that direction when the "self-serve" powerball and other drawing game terminals are available early next year.

    Those games are more per play -- $.50 and up -- vs. what could be penny or nickle poker and video slot machines. And there is more of a skill if the slots implement hold a reel, similar to the games Cherokee must provide.

    The "corruption" element could be elimiated if every poker machine was liceneced and that money went to enforcing the laws instead of being funneled to other projects.

  • maydaymanny Oct 14, 2009

    They may have upheld the ban before, but now we have an "education lottery" which is gambling. The lawsuit could go federal and the state would lose because of the lottery.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Oct 14, 2009

    I'm NOT a betting man. But if the state did allow them and tax them, it would bring in a decent amount of money for the state. I mean really, its only the stupid/foolish that play these things anyway. If they are going to waste their money, the state might as well take a piece of the pie. Stupid is as stupid does.

  • ContinuityMan Oct 14, 2009

    If the state licensed (i.e. taxed) these machines and then charged an annual license fee (i.e tax) on them, we'd be out of debt in no time.

  • Raleigh_ Esq. Oct 14, 2009

    Albeit a different issue, the Court of Appeals panel interestingly includes 2 of the 3 judges who previously upheld the ban on Texas Hold 'Em --

  • ContinuityMan Oct 14, 2009

    Hey! A Pot O' Gold system!

  • foetine Oct 14, 2009

    Yet the Lottery can give people money in order to play Poker in Las Vegas. Gambling for all!