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Play now!  North Carolina court rulings have officially made electronic gambling illegal. 

This ban comes from two court rulings,  so no more electronic and computer-based sweepstakes machines in North Carolina.  Essentailly this means that games that have the look and feel of video poker and other casino games will have to be unplugged by Wednesday.

Operators are already looking for loopholes.  Some of those that own and operate sweepstakes parlors, say one ruling left the door slightly ajar for them to continue offering a version of the games, and legal appeals may be ahead. It wasn't immediately clear how the law, one of nearly a dozen taking effect Dec. 1, will be enforced.

Judge Paul Ridgeway of Wake County Superior Court dismissed a lawsuit Monday that was filed by an amusement machine company and upheld a law passed by the General Assembly in July designed to eliminate video and Internet-based sweepstakes games. Lawmakers argued the games were illegal gambling even though customers buy Internet or phone time or office services first before playing games on a computer that reveals potential prizes on a monitor.

But the police won't be taking the machines away due to a 2008 ruling which was designed to lose a 2007 ban loophole. Judge Craig believes that some of the new law violates the First Amendment.  He suggested games specifically identified and designed to look like video poker, craps, keno or other games were subject to the Dec. 1 ban, but others designed to be nabbed in a catchall provision might not be.

Chase Brooks, president of the Internet-Based Sweepstakes Organization, which represents video and Internet-based sweepstakes operators, focused on Craig's decision. The group wants the General Assembly and Gov. Beverly Perdue to legalize video poker machines again and regulate them, reaping hundreds of millions of dollars for the state. Some operators argue they'll find technical ways to get around the new law.

The problem lies between entertainment and gambling,  some of the sweepstakes machine operators argue the games are just that entertainment, not gambling. But it could be seen that consumers who visit sweepstakes parlors or convenience stores buy a product that gives them the opportunity to uncover potential cash and prizes with a few mouse clicks on a computer screen that resembles a casino-style game. Casino-style, key words.  Retailers or standalone parlors make the payouts. But the lawmakers, aka opponents, argue players waste their money and get addicted to the experience, and gambling addiction is no joke.


Richard Frye, owner of Sandhill Amusements, which sued in Wake County court, sets up sweepstakes machines in convenience stores and bars as a way to market sales of long-distance phone cards. He said Monday he expects to file an appeal but for now is preparing to turn off his machines by Wednesday's deadline.


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