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Updated: Odds not in favor for Gambling Sweepstakes businesses

By Charlotte Smith

North Carolina is one of the least gambling friendly states in terms of legislation. What legal gambling there is takes place in a western NC casino on Tribal land. All that remains outside of the reservation is a little charity gaming, a lottery and some very low-stakes bingo games, according to reports. Anyone hoping for improvements have been disappointed this week.

The crack-downs on all forms of gambling may continue after the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled against some of the latest efforts by the video game sweepstakes industry.

The video game sweepstakes allow customers to play video sweepstakes games to win money or other items of value. These sweepstakes have popped up in coffee shops, gas marts and stand alone sweepstakes cafes. There have been many gambling crack-downs in our state and in Bladen County.

Each time the state legislators made new statutes against the gambling sweepstakes, the gambling industry would change the way the games were operated. This tactic would allow the gambling industry to start up new businesses.

Since 2013 Bladen County courts, law enforcement, and business owners have been caught in the sweepstakes dispute. The Bladen County Sheriff’s office has performed many raids in past years.

At the conclusion of one of the raids, a Dublin business man, Mr. Jeffery Smith was arrested.

Since then Mr. Smith reported all charges pressed against him and his employees were dropped. “I received all seized money and most equipment back,” Mr. Smith added.

A tort lawsuit was filed by Mr. Smith against the Bladen County Sheriff’s Department due to the raid and is still pending in federal court.

The legal question in the sweepstakes gaming industry seems to be, “Are video sweepstakes games predominately games of chance or games of skill and dexterity?”

The North Carolina General Statute 14-306.1A …involves types of machines and devices prohibited by law, 14-306.3 … involves certain game promotions as unlawful, 14-306.4 … involves electronic machines and devices for sweepstakes being prohibited, and 14-292… involves gambling.

In Onslow County, there was a similar case between an Onslow County business, Sandhills Amusements and Gift Surplus, and the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, and the State.

Superior Court Judge Ebern T. Watson III ruled in favor of the gambling sweepstakes industry.

The sweepstakes do include, elements of skill and dexterity, according to Judge Watson, and these elements outweigh the random chance elements of the games. The judge ruled the games don’t violate the state’s gambling laws because of the elements of skill and dexterity, according to reports.

On Tuesday, October 15, a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned Judge Watson’s decision.

Judge Hunter Murphy, Judge Wanda Bryant, and Judge Allegra Collins made up the Court of Appeals panel.

Judge Bryant explained her opinion, the statute governing the case is too broad, however, chance dominates the outcome, not skill.

Judge Collins stated, “the de minimus amount of skill and dexterity involved in executing two nudges fails to transform a game of chance into one wherein skill and dexterity predominate.”

Judge Murphy and Judge Collins agreed, the law specifically prohibits electronic machines which conduct or promote sweepstakes games through the use of an entertaining display.

“As such, regardless of whether skill or chance predominates over the games at issue,” Judge Murphy said.

Although the official ruling from the appeals court took place on Tuesday, the new verdict will not be in effect until November 4th, according to the official court documents.

View the legal documents of the case:

Related article:

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Trial date set on Taylor’s video sweepstakes charges

Bladen case involves legality of video sweepstakes games

District attorney’s motion continued over removal from sweepstakes case

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