WRAL Investigates

Sweepstakes ban passes Senate committee

Posted June 17, 2010 10:26 a.m. EDT

— Legislation to ban so-called sweepstakes cafes in North Carolina passed a key committee Thursday morning and has gone to the full state Senate for a vote.

The games, which are sprouting up in strip malls and convenience stores across the state, sell players blocks of time to play games of chance on computers or cell phones. The odds are long, but players who win can get a cash payout.

The Senate is expected to vote on the ban proposal some time during this session. It would then have to be passed by the House of Representatives.

Sen Josh Stein, D-Wake, has said that he expects his colleagues will vote to outlaw the machines, but House Democrats can't find a consensus on the issue.

Opponents of the games, including some sheriffs and lawmakers, want them to be banned like video poker.

However, recent court rulings have determined that the businesses are legal. The gaming industry has proposed that it be regulated and taxed, and some municipal and county governments are taking zoning and taxation measures to control sweepstakes games.