Under the Dome

Dome: Ruling goes in favor of sweepstakes games

From Staff ReportsApril 21, 2013 

Sweepstakes games are still being played on uncertain legal terrain in North Carolina, where court rulings and pressure to step up law enforcement are sending mixed messages.

On Thursday, Macon County District Court Judge Donna Forga found a convenience store owner, Michael Berry, not guilty on four misdemeanor charges of operating a sweeps machine at his store in violation of state law.

Earlier this month, a district court judge in Catawba County acquitted a convenience store employee who had been charged after police raided the business. A Durham Internet café owner is facing similar charges.

In December, the state Supreme Court upheld North Carolina’s ban on the games, but a bill has been introduced that would clarify the status of the industry and provide for regulation.

In the Macon County case, the game and the kiosk it’s in market and sell dollar-for-dollar gift certificates and credits that can be used at the company’s website, according to Berry’s attorneys. Sales of the cards and credits are promoted with free entry into sweepstakes games that require skill and dexterity, which the attorneys say makes them legal. Each sweepstakes entry has the same chance of winning and cannot be manipulated, and the devices have been tested by a certifying lab.

The attorneys said the game that is used to reveal winning sweepstakes entries was engineered to comply with North Carolina law. “The case represents a significant development in the evolving landscape of sweepstakes gaming laws in North Carolina,” Asheville attorneys George Hyler and Steve Agan said in a statement.

Ellmers behind in money race

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn, a potential U.S. Senate candidate next year, has not yet begun cranking up her money-raising operation.

She raised $97,797 in political contributions during the first quarter of the year, according to federal campaign reports. She had $133,586 on hand at the end of March. That is fine for a congresswoman seeking re-election, but it’s not the kind of money associated with a Senate race.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan raised $1.6 million during the first quarter and had $2.7 million on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton, who will likely face another tough re-election effort again next year, raised $118,779 in the first quarter and had $181,672 cash on hand.

Republican Rep. George Holding of Raleigh raised $110,992 in the first quarter and had $23,844 cash on hand.

Democratic Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill raised $41,305 during the first quarter and had $50,229 cash on hand. Democrat G.K. Butterfield of Wilson raised $45,500 and had $243,788 cash on hand.

Republican Walter Jones of Farmville raised $78,459 in the first quarter and had $104,530 cash on hand.

Republican Howard Coble of Greensboro raised $4,140 and had $37,681 cash on hand, a figure likely to fuel more rumors that he is nearing retirement.

Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville raised $131,008 and had $206,048 on hand. Rep. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk raised $92,519 and had $1.5 million cash on hand.

Republican Richard Hudson of Concord raised $207,122 and had $195,581 on hand – the classic profile of a freshman anxious to make sure he has enough money to fend off a challenger.

Republican Mark Meadows, another freshman, raised $26,787 and had $7,840 on hand. Still another freshman, Republican Robert Pittenger, had raised $59,815 and had $5,866. Both Meadows and Pittenger are wealthy businessmen capable of self-funding.

Democrat Mel Watt of Charlotte raised $1,000 and had $91,824 on hand – not the profile of a lawmaker preparing for re-election.

Jones joins Paul Institute

Jones, by the way, has joined the advisory board for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, named after the former presidential candidate and former Texas congressman.

The institute will focus on foreign policy issues including creating a “peace and prosperity index” to record the votes of members of Congress. Besides Jones, the advisory board includes former U.S. Rep. (and presidential candidate) Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee.

At an event Wednesday, Jones gave an intense speech in which he said he regretted his vote authorizing the war in Iraq and said former President George W. Bush should have been impeached for engaging in battle without a formal declaration of war, according to the National Review Online.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and Rob Christensen

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