North Carolina’s Supreme Court orders sweepstakes to shut down on Wednesday
The state’s high court almost immediately dismissed the request filed by software and gaming companies to put a hold on the law which justices unanimously agreed to uphold that deemed sweepstakes establishments illegal. Members of the sweepstakes industry requested that the state's Supreme Court delay the Jan. 3 closing date to allow time to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Although rumors have been circulating of a grace period for the establishments to operate while law enforcement devises a plan for executing the law, according to Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale, from what he understands, all sweepstakes establishments were required to close their doors by Wednesday morning. “The only information I have been given says that the shops had to be closed down on Jan. 3,” said Beale. “I do not have any information on any grace period.”
According to Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland, he and his staff are evaluating what process would be the most efficient and effective to enforce the new law. “Because it is a new law, we are looking at it and are holding meetings to determine the best plan of action,” said Holland. “First, we will be contacting the sweepstakes establishments in the area and making them fully aware of the law.”
Holland hopes that while the courts continue to battle out the legality of the businesses, local shop owners will work with the Sheriff's Office to comply with the law. “I have already spoken with several shop owners and will continue to make every effort to reach the others to make sure we are all on the same page.”
Holland’s office drafted a letter which will be provided to all establishments within the county today (Thursday). The letter defines the law and what the court’s ruling means for sweepstakes businesses.
Macon County commissioners have been pleading with the state to rule on the legality of the establishments, which have sprung up all along the Georgia Road since a caveat was placed on the current law, leaving a loophole allowing them to operate.
The gaming industry has urged state lawmakers to legalize video sweepstakes and then regulate and tax the games, which they say would provide needed revenue. According to Sen. Jim Davis (R-50), the way the law is currently designed, municipalities have the ability to regulate and tax the establishments, while counties within the state do not. Davis noted that if the Supreme Court ruling had not gone the way that it did, he would have liked to have seen legislation that allowed the county control of taxes and regulations that fall outside of city limits.
Beale noted that the lack of regulation on the games is where the problem was found. “There are two types of gambling, that which can be regulated and that which is illegal,” he said. “I am not familiar with all of the regulations, but from my understanding there is very little or no regulations at all, so I don't see how they are able to operate without anyone regulating their activity.”
Throughout Macon County, there are currently about 20 establishments, 11 of which are within a nine-mile stretch along the Georgia Road. “I think people coming to Franklin from Georgia are surprised at how many of these establishments can be found on the road sides, said Beale. “I don't see how the Supreme Court's ruling can do anything but help the area.”