Judge temporarily allows sweepstakes software [The Charlotte Observer]
(Charlotte Observer (NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 30--A Superior Court judge in Davidson County has issued a temporary restraining order blocking police from stopping the operations of sweepstakes parlors that use a certain type of software.
Authorities in the Charlotte area are determining whether the ruling impacts them as well.
Last month, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state's ban on video sweepstakes machines, and a law banning the games went into effect Jan. 3. The law was part of a long-running effort by the state to prohibit video poker and other forms of gaming, although the sweepstakes industry has said that business owners would adjust their games to follow the law.
The case before Judge Robert Johnson involved Oklahoma software company International Internet Technologies LLC and B&J Daniels Inc., doing business as Hickory Tree Business Center.
The companies said they had modified their software to comply with the law.
In general, sweepstakes parlor customers buy phone or Internet time that gives them the chance to uncover potential prizes while using a computer screen.
In the International Internet Technologies system, customers can press a "reveal button" to instantly see if they have won a prize associated with their sweepstakes entry, the court stated in its findings. "No video games or game simulations are played while the sweepstakes is entered or while the results of the sweepstakes are revealed," Johnson wrote.
The order does not protect any other company's sweepstakes systems, only International Internet Technologies'.
Johnson issued the ruling Monday and set another hearing date for the following Monday. Lawyers representing the companies sent copies of the judge's order to area law enforcement, including agencies in Union County and Charlotte.
Winston-Salem attorney Michael Grace, who is representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment Wednesday.
Mark Newbold, deputy city attorney with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said in a statement that the city is closely monitoring the case and will quickly assess the impact of any permanent ruling by the court. "Nothing in this recent challenge changes our current strategy of reviewing complaints against sweepstakes establishments on a case-by-case basis," he said.
In Union County, two locations in Monroe and one in Marshville use the International Internet Technologies system, according to a list of sites accompanying the judge's order that Grace's office sent to Union County authorities.
Union County District Attorney Trey Robison said his office is assessing the ruling.
Speaking generally, Robison said a Superior Court judge's ruling in one county can have jurisdiction in other counties since those judges have statewide jurisdiction. But it is not clear yet whether that is the case with Johnson's ruling, he said.
If the software firm is successful with its case, Robison expects similar lawsuits would be filed by other software companies.
The suit was filed against the state and the Davidson County sheriff.
In a statement, Noelle Tally, spokeswoman for N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, said staff attorneys are reviewing the order and intend to represent the state in the matter.
She said Cooper's advice to law enforcement remains unchanged: "That they investigate video sweepstakes operations in their area to determine what games are being played, consult with their local District Attorney, and then take any enforcement action they think necessary against violators."
Staff writer April Bethea contributed
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