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The Daily Tar Heel

Gambling with legality: Sweepstakes cafes allow gambling, should be banned

A legal loophole that allows patrons of Internet cafes to gamble online needs to be closed.

Gambling is illegal according to N.C. law. But “sweepstakes cafes” have managed to find a loophole in the statues that allows them to run computers that simulate slot machines.

These sweepstakes cafes sell Internet time to patrons who then play server-based lottery games. Most of these Internet cafes pay out money at the establishment at the time a player wins.

In December 2008, the N.C. General Assembly attempted to close this loophole by banning “server-based electronic game promotions,” including simulations of slot machines.

But the manufactures of these gaming machines modified their products to get around the law, according to Richard Ducker, professor in the UNC School of Government.

In the same month the statute was passed, a Guilford County superior court judge ruled that these sweepstakes cafes were outside of the statute’s jurisdiction.

Judge John O. Craig III then issued a preliminary injunction against N.C. law enforcement officers that would prevent them from taking action against those with reconfigured gaming operations.

The injunction even prevented law enforcement from publicly declaring these operations illegal.

These operations will continue to fight for the right to stay open. But the simple fact is that online sweepstakes, whether server-based or not, are gambling.

While a valid point could be made that the state lottery is also gambling, the difference is that most of its revenue goes to state education, not to the pockets of a private business owner.

Legislators need to continue to try to shut these establishments down. If gambling is to remain illegal, then letting these sweepstakes cafes operate is a double standard.

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