Video Sweepstakes on the Radar

With the help of federal officers, the state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) teams are leading the charge against video sweepstakes by launching several recent raids on businesses throughout eastern North Carolina. These efforts are aimed at shutting down illegal operations and seizing sweepstakes and other similar machines. According to Don Connelly, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney, there are ongoing investigations and searches in “multiple locations” throughout the Eastern District of North Carolina, which runs from Granville, Wake, Harnett, Cumberland, and Robeson counties to the coast. And earlier this month, multiple warrants were served at sweepstakes establishments by the federal agents who were assisting the regional team. It is currently unclear whether charges are forthcoming, but it is known that the federal government has seized millions in assets from businesses using the federal asset forfeiture procedures in its anti-sweepstakes efforts. What’s the Legal Issue? Video sweepstakes and video poker players usually purchase an online access card or a phone card to play these games, and with the card, they can gain game time on the sweepstakes machines. These machines offer an opportunity to win cash prizes. Throughout the state, there are many sweepstakes halls, some of which regulate the games with zoning rules and tax assessments that they claim legalizes the practice. For many years, North Carolina’s Attorney General has been pushing for an end to video poker and video sweepstakes games throughout the state, and he is a vocal supporter of the state laws that ban these machines. Other critics of the video games say that players are paying money to gamble and that the additional products purchased to obtain game time are unnecessary and often unused as a result. In December of 2012, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a law passed in 2007 banning video sweepstakes games is constitutional and must be enforced. In some counties, law enforcement agencies responded immediately, shutting down gaming centers and confiscating machines, while other counties have been slower to react, leaving the games and machines untouched. However, legal battles continued over various enforcement actions. Then, in April 2015, the North Carolina Supreme Court declined to review two Court of Appeals opinions upholding the criminal convictions of business owners for violating the anti-sweepstakes law. Law enforcement authorities have interpreted this court action as a green light to begin strongly enforcing the law. Call an Attorney As law enforcement officials continue to crack down, business owners offering video sweepstakes, video poker and other gaming activities should be wary. To discuss your case with a Raleigh criminal defense attorney, contact the team at Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, and Bryan for a consultation today.
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