WRAL Investigates

Lawmaker suggests taxing Internet gaming

Posted April 28, 2010 6:06 p.m. EDT
Updated April 28, 2010 7:05 p.m. EDT

— Could Internet gaming become legal in North Carolina?

Some key state lawmakers are entertaining the idea, saying it could be a way to raise revenue in tough budget times.

"It might be a way to incorporate this under the lottery," Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, said Wednesday. "People are going to do it, legally or illegally. Let's look at legalizing it, possibly, and enjoying some revenue from it."

A number of cities across the state already collect revenue from Internet sweepstakes games in the form of a privilege tax.

Recent court rulings protect the games in the state, even though North Carolina's attorney general and lawmakers like House Majority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, argue they are illegal and should be banned.

Lawmakers are likely poised to outlaw businesses trying to get around the state's 4-year-old video poker ban when the General Assembly reconvenes in May.

Known as "sweepstakes cafes," the businesses sell players blocks of time to play games of chance on computers or cell phones.

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger said Wednesday that he is also open to the idea of taxing and regulating the games.

"I certainly think it's something that probably should be part of the discussion," Berger, R-Rockingham, said.

William Thevaos, a spokesman with the video gaming industry, said he supports Hoyle's idea of the state regulating and taxing the games but that they should still be run by private enterprise.

"We believe, by regulating video gaming, you can protect consumers, provide a controlled market and generate a new revenue stream for the state without having to raise taxes," Thevaos said.