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Judge overturns N.C. video poker ban

North Carolina cannot allow video gaming at a Cherokee casino while outlawing elsewhere in the state, a Superior Court judge ruled. The ban remains in effect pending an appeal.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Superior Court judge on Thursday overturned North Carolina's ban on video poker, saying the state couldn't allow Cherokees to operate video poker games in their casino while outlawing the games elsewhere in the state.

The General Assembly voted three years ago to phase out video poker games by July 2007. The legislation exempted the video gambling machines at the casino run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The ban almost cost Ameer Saib his convenience store in Johnston County.

“We had to do some adjustments, cut some hours, things like that, just so I could stay in business,” Saib said.

Judge Howard Manning Jr. said in his three-page ruling issued late Thursday afternoon that the exemption violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"The state acted unlawfully in authorizing the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to possess and operate video gaming machines on tribal lands within North Carolina because that activity is not allowed elsewhere in this state," Manning wrote.

He immediately stayed his ruling, meaning the video poker ban remains in effect, while state officials appeal the decision.

The decision comes in a suit by video gaming operators against former Gov. Mike Easley.

House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, voted for three years ago for the video poker ban. He said he plans to do what it takes to keep the ban in place.

“Families were being ruined because so many people were addicted to that kind of gambling. It was steeped in corruption,” Stam said.

Saib says if the ban is lifted he'll get back into the business. He believes the state should reimburse he and other business owners affected by the ban.

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Ken Smith, Reporter
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