..Sweepstakes Games Legality Again In Question After Court Decision..
RED SPRINGS, N.C. — In a court ruling last month, some Internet sweepstakes operators would be allowed to reopen a business in Scotland County, but Robeson County officials are not yet sure if they will allow the new games to re-open in Red Springs.
A entrepreneur from North Carolina, Grace Outlaw wants to bring a gaming parlor to town, but town officials say opening a sweepstakes operation has not been cleared yet.
“My understanding from the district attorney and the Attorney General’s Office is that any sweepstakes operation is still against the law,” Red Springs Police Chief Ronnie Patterson claimed after a meeting with the gaming operator on Monday.
Patterson said he would check with city, county and state officials about whether Grace’s machines would be exempt from the ban on sweepstakes parlors and try to give her a definitive answer by Friday.
Grace opened Carolina Cyber Center on South Main Street on Leisure Road for a few weeks, after a District Court judge concluded the gaming software used in her original business does not violate the ban on sweepstakes parlors that authorities began enforcing early last year after the state Supreme Court declared a 2010 ban on video gambling constitutional.
Grace and others in the sweepstakes industry proclaim that the state ban is key on the use of “an entertaining display or visual information, capable of being seen by a sweepstakes player that takes the form of actual game play.” The system is commonly referred to as “Pre Reveal Sweepstakes” since the prize is shown before the “entertainment display”
Grace’s machines uses the Pre Reveal software that reveals the winners in advance — a loophole that keeps those machines in compliance with the law, according to Grace and her attorneys (and the judge)
“They came in and said we were running an illegal operation, but the judge saw different,” said Robert Outlaw, who runs a business on Main Street. “We went to court and we won our case” Since the Supreme court declared that the 2010 law banning internet sweepstakes was constitutional the Pre Reveal sweepstakes software has won close to a dozen court cases.
All the charges were dismissed against customers who were playing at Carolina Cyber Center and charged with illegal gambling when the business was closed by law enforcement earlier this year.
The PreReveal software used by Carolina Cyber Center prompts customers to click a reveal button when they begin their interaction with the machine. That button simply shows the user, without use of graphics such as a simulated roulette wheel, whether or not they have won. At that point, when the sweepstakes portion of the session has ended, users may then opt to see the game commonly referred to as the ‘entertainment display’
“A lot of gaming establishment stuck with the old system and that is why they have not reopened, but we went with the new software that shows you what you would win without going through a game,” Grace said. “The judge ruled that was all right.”
Outlaw said she would like to locate the gaming parlor in a vacant store near the Food Lion shopping center on Fourth Street in Red Springs. She also plans to locate a gaming business in Pembroke.
“I’m hoping that if our parlors are legal in Laurinburg, than they are legal everywhere,” she said.
Town officials said that if the new software make the businesses legal, then the parlors could once again be a a great source of revenue for the city. Before a ruling deemed sweepstakes games illegal, Red Springs welcomed the machines, collecting more than $100,000 in fees during a fiscal year.
Patterson goes on to say, “We don’t care if the games come or not,” Patterson said. “But I have a feeling that we’re going to continue to enforce the ban (on entertainment displays) If we don’t, the SBI will be down here investigating why we are not doing our jobs.”