The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

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January 4, 2013

Local lawmen begin enforcing sweepstakes ban

TARBORO — For North Carolina internet cafe owners, the clock struck midnight Thursday and it appears there is no glass slipper in sight. Video sweepstakes machines are now illegal.

Last month, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a a 2010 law that placed a ban on video sweepstakes machines. The order went into effect Thursday with each law enforcement jurisdiction dealing with the statue in its on way.

Tony Blackey, the owner of Lucky Land Internet Cafe, located just north of Tarboro on NC Hwy. 33, had hopes the issue would be appealed but, as of Thursday, there was no public knowledge of any pending court action.

Edgecombe County head law enforcement officials met with the district attorney Thursday who advised them to give the owners a 10-day grace period. Tarboro Police Chief Damon Williams said his department delivered letters to the businesses Thursday informing them that the new state statue will be enforced. Apparently they had already gotten the message.

“They were already preparing for closing,” Williams said. “Everybody is cooperating and I don’t think there will be any problems.”

Although the future of internet cafes appears bleak, there is still a glimmer of hope. Sweepstakes software companies are working on revising the software to comply with the new law. However, as of Thursday, hundreds of employees are out of work.

Lucky Land, as well as four other internet cafes in Tarboro were closed Thursday. At Riverside Oak Business Center, a note on its door stated, “Closed Temporarily Wed. Jan. 2. Updating software to be in compliance with N.C. State Laws.”  An employee at the site said she could not comment.

Since the state outlawed video poker machines six years ago, internet cafes have become popular statewide. There are at least eight in Edgecombe County, including the Tarboro businesses.

The state court ruled in two cases in which amusement machine and other companies sought to overturn a 2010 law banning sweepstakes machines as a form of gambling. The high court said the law was a constitutional effort to close a loophole since the state outlawed video poker machines in 2007.  

The decision reverses a March ruling by the state Court of Appeals, which said the move to outlaw the games was written too broadly and was unconstitutional.

In a story published by the Associated Press,  Attorney General Roy Cooper said he doesn’t anticipate widespread internet cafe raids across the state.

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