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Confusion Over Who's Responsible For Sweepstakes Ban Enforcement

11:37 PM, Jan 3, 2013   |    comments
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Triad, NC -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper told News 2 that it's up to local agencies and district attorneys to enforce the sweepstakes ban law, but the Guilford County District Attorney and the Greensboro Police Department are waiting for guidelines from the Attorney General.

Sweepstakes locations and Internet cafes all over the state are supposed to be shutting down thanks to a Supreme Court ruling.

The Internet cafes let people buy internet time so they could play online games like video poker or video bingo. But in 2010, a state law banned these games, specifically the "revealing of a prize using an entertainment display".

Sweepstakes operators filed an appeal.  However, last month, the State Supreme Court ruled the ban was legal.

Starting January 3, 2013, authorities can enforce the ban but News 2's Liz Crawford found they're not quite doing that.

The North Carolina Attorney General's office told News 2 that it's up to local police and sheriff's departments to enforce the law.

"We are awaiting implementing guidelines from the Attorney General. These guidelines ensure equitable and consistent enforcement methods throughout the state," said a spokesperson for the Greensboro Police Department.

The Guilford County Sheriff's Office said the same thing. Neither agency did anything different on Thursday because they don't know what to do or what to look for.

AIA Sweepstakes in Burlington closed January 3, 2013 at midnight. A notice on their door said, "We will close...for a major software upgrade to comply with the current statute related to sweepstakes operations."

The NC Attorney General's Office said it's up to the local departments and local district attorneys to come up with enforcement strategies.

Eddie Caldwell with the North Carolina Sheriff's Association told News 2 the same thing. It's up to individual law enforcement agencies to determine what is legal and what is not and how to enforce it. Caldwell said some agencies could issue warnings, hold raids, or enforce as complaints come in.

News 2 reached out to the Guilford County District Attorney's office about their role in enforcement.

Howard Neumann, the Chief Assistant District Attorney sent us this statement:

Several law enforcement agencies and District Attorney's Offices have asked the Attorney General's Office for some guidance in enforcing the "Sweepstakes Ban" codified in G.S. 14-306.4. We believe the law needs to be uniformly enforced across the state so that, for example, we don't have different actions being taken in Alamance County, Guilford County, Randolph County, etc. Since the Attorney General's Office will ultimately have to defend any legal action in the appellate courts it's important that they give us an interpretation of the law we can all follow.
Additionally, new software has been put out by the companies that license the machines used at the sweepstakes sites and until that new software can be seen in use it is not possible to determine if it complies with the law or violates it.
The statute that governs this area is lengthy and difficult to understand. If the legislature would decide what forms of video gambling they don't want to allow and then craft a law in plain language that prohibits it we would all be better served.

WFMY News 2

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