Signing off

January 9, 2013 

The video sweepstakes industry is well-financed (with the money such gambling operations make, it’s no wonder), and it vows not to shut down without a fight. Its existence is threatened by the N.C. Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the state’s 2010 ban on the games as illegal gambling enterprises.

Let them fight, but let us hope that law enforcement begins closing in soon. The industry has bobbed and weaved for years to avoid the “gambling” label by setting up machines and parlors where people weren’t exactly playing video poker. Customers would buy Internet or phone minutes and then use in-house computers to search for cash or other prizes. To argue that such a setup is “entertainment” and not gambling was stretching the definition of both.

Unfortunately, the N.C. Court of Appeals bought that argument and ruled in favor of the industry, saying that the state, in banning the games, was infringing on free speech. Doubtless those judges arrived at their ruling in a sincere way, but the state’s highest court has made a significant and sensible ruling in overturning the appeals court.

Law enforcement at all levels has been firmly behind a ban on these machines. Law officers see the damage done to families, and they’ve seen as well the lengths to which some operators have gone to avoid detection. Officers have long suspected under-the-table payments and other maneuvers to evade the law on the part of those who want to keep the money rolling in.

Said Attorney General Roy Cooper, who’ll help direct police and sheriff’s offices as to how to respond to this ruling, “I stood with law enforcement to push for a ban on this kind of gambling, and our lawyers have argued for years for the right to enforce it. The Supreme Court got this one right.”

The industry says: Not so fast. Said one owner of these so-called entertainment parlors: “The thing they have to realize is that we’re not going away.” We’ll see.

In the meantime, lawmakers (state Senate president pro-tem Phil Berger is a strong opponent of the gambling) should look for ways to lock up the ban through the law, once and for all.

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