Durham deputies raid illegal sweepstakes cafe

From staff reportsApril 5, 2013 

— Sheriff’s investigators raided an illegal sweepstakes café Friday after an investigation determined the establishment was in violation of North Carolina law regulating electronic gambling.

Deputies seized 108 computers, approximately $2,500 cash at H&S Internet Café, 3709 Wake Forest Highway, at 6 p.m. The café’s owner, Edward R. Simmons, 47, of Rock Hill, S.C., was cited for operating machines and devices for sweepstakes. Several customers inside the café were not arrested or cited, according to a sheriff’s office news release.

“An undercover investigator made several trips into this establishment during the investigation,” Maj. Paul Martin said. “The information gathered by the undercover deputy – and during this search warrant – provides incontrovertible evidence that H&S Internet Café was operating illegally. Similar investigations may already be under way throughout Durham County, including inside the City of Durham, and I hope this raid sends a message that illegal sweepstakes cafes will not be allowed to operate in Durham County.”

The internet sweepstakes industry group that is pushing to legalize the games in North Carolina is claiming a small but potentially important victory. A judge in Catawba County has acquitted a sweeps café employee in what the industry says was its first criminal case in the state.

The decision came on Wednesday, the same day that a bill was filed in the state legislature to regulate and tax the games, which have been the subject of legal disputes for years now.

The N.C. Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban in December, but a coalition of sweepstakes machine providers has been working to change the law.

The effort suffered a setback when a major supplier of gaming software – who was also a major political contributor and game supplier in North Carolina – was charged in Florida with racketeering related to misstating where the profits go.

In Catawba County, a district court judge acquitted a Circle S Depot employee who had been charged after police raided the store, according to The Hickory Record.

Her attorney, Lisa Dubs, argued that the way the games were set up did not violate the law because the prize is revealed before the game is played instead of after.

“We are pleased that the judge agreed with our position – that the pre-reveal software does not violate NC statute,” Dubs said in a statement released by the coalition.

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