Officials form sweepstakes task force
Mar 18, 2013 (The Reidsville Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Local law enforcement officials launched a taskforce last week to uphold a state law banning the use of video sweepstakes operations.
Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. told each sector of local law enforcement in the county to pick a representative from its unit to help in this effort.
"I've heard back from some departments but not all," Berger said. "We currently have a demonstration scheduled to review software of the display games which are technically legal under the statute."
Berger said many sweepstakes businesses began upgrading their software to come into compliance with the law.
"Despite the wording of the statute, sweepstakes machines will not go away because the businesses that operate these establishments are very good at finding loopholes," Berger said. "It is a $1.5 billion dollar industry and the idea these companies are going to close their doors are naive."
The sweepstakes businesses upgraded to pre-reveal software. Part of the state's statute reads, "any other video game not dependent on skill or dexterity that is played while revealing a prize as the result of an entry into a sweepstakes."
The businesses found a loophole where the pre-reveal software shows a prize prior to playing the game. The player chooses whether to reveal the prize first and then click on the game or go directly to the game. The software allows businesses to come into compliance with the state statute.
"Basically they found a way around the statute to make sure they're compliant and it's a matter of an extra click," Berger said.
Despite the new software allowing sweepstakes to operate legally, a Lexington, N.C. judge disagreed. The judge dismissed a lawsuit on Feb. 4 preventing law enforcement officials from banning a Lexington business before a judge determined if the operation operated legally with the new pre-reveal software.
Berger said law enforcement doesn't intend to go after a business in compliance with the law. Law enforcement plans to determine which sweepstakes venues became legal and which remain in violation.
Officials remain unaware of the exact amount of sweepstakes businesses in the county. On January 7, Berger sent letters to the known businesses advising them of the ban and how to proceed.
The issue began in December after the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals which declared banning sweepstakes games an infringement of free speech.
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