State News

NC high court weighs status of video sweepstakes

Posted October 17, 2012 11:52 a.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2012 4:31 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's highest court is deciding whether the state can outlaw video sweepstakes parlors as gambling halls, or whether the video screens give the owners constitutional free-speech rights.

The state Supreme Court's seven-member panel heard arguments Wednesday in two cases in which amusement machine and other companies want to overturn a 2010 law banning video sweepstakes machines as a form of gambling. Sweepstakes halls have cropped up since the state outlawed video poker machines.

A company attorney argued customers can find out from a clerk whether they've won, but using a video screen to share that information is no different than communicating in pictures, French or Braille. Attorney Kelly Daughtry says it's all protected speech.

"They want you to go there. They're not doing it for the heck of it, just for good nature," Daughtry said. "They're trying to get you to buy their product, and that's what my clients are trying to do – to get you to buy their product."

A state government attorney says no one has a right to run a gambling operation.

"It's not a ban on video games. It's not a ban on sweepstakes. It's on a certain delivery system using video games to convey the results of a sweepstakes," said state Solicitor General John Maddrey.

The high court is expected to rule in the next few months.