Local Politics

Governor signs ban on sweepstakes games

Posted July 20, 2010 4:44 p.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2010 3:40 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue on Tuesday signed into law a ban on so-called sweepstakes cafes, which sell customers blocks of Internet time to allow them to gamble online or on cell phones.

The General Assembly passed the law in the legislative session that ended July 10. The ban goes into effect Dec. 1.

Sweepstakes businesses have sprouted rapidly in strip shopping centers statewide in recent months after court decisions questioned whether the state's 2006 video poker ban applied to the computer-based games.

Entertainment Group of North Carolina, an association of vendors of coin-operated and sweepstakes machines, has said its members plan to look at a possible legal challenge to the ban and other ways to get around it.

Perdue said Wednesday that she would be open to legalizing the games again under certain conditions.

"I think, if you have video sweepstakes, whether it's video poker or video machines in general, we really do need to have some kind of concentrated, organized, unified system of regulation where they are under a set of standards, rules and regulations where we can be sure no one is profiteering from it," she said.

State lawmakers considered regulation. They even talked about letting the North Carolina Education Lottery take over the games as a way to raise revenue.

Perdue said as things stand now, the sweepstakes cafes are "uncontrollable."

Operators contend the ban will eliminate thousands of jobs during the bad economy by getting rid of a game that's only a form of entertainment, not gambling.