The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 9, 2013

City to enforce gaming ban

By Justin Jones, Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 — While other cities across the state are weighing their options of enforcing the ruling on sweepstakes or video poker machines, the city of Albemarle will enforce the ruling as given by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Assistant City Manager Michael Ferris and Police Chief William Halliburton both presented facts and research on what other municipalities across the region and state are doing after the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that video sweepstakes machines within the state are illegal.

The ruling went into effect for local law enforcement on Jan. 3.

Chief Halliburton recommended that he allow a period for owners of the sweepstakes parlors to be notified of the city’s decision and that all machines ruled to be illegal to be discontinued from use within the city. That letter, Halliburton said, will be sent out by Thursday, giving a deadline of next Wednesday, Jan. 16 for the owners to pull the machines out of their stores.

“Machines that do have a visible display that looks to be as some of the definitions they have of video poker game are video bingo, video craps,” he said.

“Those are pretty much not in question at all. If anyone is in operation with those machines, we have the right to enforce it, make the appropriate charges and seize the property.”

Halliburton said that he had spoken with local District Attorney Reece Saunders, who would support local law enforcement.

As many are anticipating, new technologies are expected to be in place where loopholes, as it has been called, in the statute may allow sweepstakes to operate with the new equipment. When that situation arises, Halliburton said, they will consult with Saunders.

“We’ve seen it in the past, where someone will interpret the statute and then try to find a way around it,” he said.

“And in my opinion that’s just another attempt to get around the spirit of the law.”

New Reveal and New Frontiers are two of the brands that are likely to make programs that are in the undefined areas of the statute, Halliburton said.

City Council then decided to back Halliburton’s request to enforce the statute.

“I move we allow the Chief to send out letters to all existing businesses that next Wednesday will be the final day and they start at 12, noon, the next Wednesday, they start enforcing that,” Councilman Ronnie Michael said.

While the motion did pass, Halliburton confirmed that the council’s decision was to enforce the law on illegal machines, and that all legal machines would be able to remain in the location.

More on the sweepstakes statute and its enforcement throughout the county will be in Thursday’s Stanly News & Press.