North Carolina sweepstakes days are numbered

Only the governor’s signature is now required

The Richmond County Daily Journal and other North Carolina media reports that the days of video poker internet sweepstakes in the state are numbered; on Wednesday the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a ban by a vote of 86-27, supporting a ban passed by the state Senate in June (see previous InfoPowa report).

The House vote followed more than two hours of impassioned debate that crossed party lines.

HB 80, which was approved by the N.C. Senate by a 47-1 margin, will now go to Gov. Bev Perdue’s desk to be signed into law.

Originally sponsored by Rep. Melanie Goodwin, a Democrat from Richmond, as a measure to ban video poker machines, HB80 was reworded to ban Internet sweepstakes gaming.

Prior to the House vote, the president of the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, William Thevaos, issued a statement appealing to the legislature to work with it in order to regulate and tax the industry rather than ban it. He estimated that up to $576 million could accrue to state coffers, and asserted that there was no difference between “playing a $20 scratch off ticket or a $20 video sweepstakes game.”

The industry has said getting rid of the games could do away with up to 10,000 jobs during the ongoing economic slump. Supporters of the games say they're not gambling but a form of entertainment and marketing for Internet or phone time or office services. Machine opponents say the games, found at more than 900 places statewide, are designed to get around a 2006 ban.

The measure makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to operate a game. Repeat offenders could be found guilty of a low-grade felony punishable by eight months to two-and-a-half years in prison.

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