The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday March 23rd

S.C. Governor Seeks Repeal Of N.C. Lottery Ticket Law

The request was made in response to charges brought against an N.C. resident in February for possessing 20 lottery tickets from South Carolina, which started a state lottery this year.

The AP reported that Gaston County authorities charged Michael Dean Atkins of Kings Mountain with a Class 2 misdemeanor last week after they discovered he had 20 S.C. lottery tickets while booking him on other unrelated charges.

Atkins was cited for violating N.C. General Statute 14-291.1, which, by some interpretations, makes it illegal for N.C. residents to possess lottery tickets.

That statute and a similar act, G.S. 14-291, were both passed by the N.C. General Assembly in 1943 and prohibit N.C. residents from holding or selling tickets for lotteries "commonly known as the numbers or butter-and-egg lottery, or lotteries of similar character, to be drawn or paid within or without the State."

Any violation of the statute is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 for a first-time offense.

According to data from the Administrative Office of the Courts, 94 individuals were found guilty of violating one of the two statutes last year.

But Bob Farb, a professor at the UNC School of Government, said the figure does not mean that those individuals were arrested for possession of lottery tickets from other states because the act regulates a variety of lotteries in the state as well.

He added that no judicial precedent exists to determine whether it is illegal to possess a lottery ticket from another state in North Carolina. "It's unclear what the answer is until we've had an appeals court decision on it," Farb said. "If this case goes to court, we'll have one then."

Meanwhile, it will be up to the N.C. General Assembly to make any changes to the law.

Sen. James Forrester, R-Gaston, said the bill probably needs to be re-examined in the wake of Atkins' arrest.

"It needs to be looked at, but it's not at the top of my priority list," he said.

Forrester said someone might introduce a bill to overturn the statute but that the bill is unlikely to pass unless other lottery issues are discussed.

"We're limited on what bills we can introduce in the short session this year," he said. "A lot will depend on if the General Assembly votes on the lottery and it gets through."

Rep. Michael Harrington, R-Gaston, also said he opposes the statute but has no plans to introduce a bill that would overturn it.

"While it may be an old law, there may be some validity to it, but there may be portions that need reform," he said. "I'd certainly support reform and the right of our citizens to buy lottery tickets in other states."

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