2:06 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Operating in the Shadow of a State Law

Game On Sweepstakes is open for business. Manager Jonathan Sprinkle says playing the video games is a social outlet for many of his customers. "90% or more of the people who come in here, it's obvious they can afford, it is extra luxury like thing. If they weren't doing this, they'd spend $50 for a round of golf or something." Earlier this month, a state ban on internet sweepstakes cafes took effect. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled the games are not protected by free speech laws.  Last June, Sprinkle opened this site on Thomasville Road in Forsyth County. The rectangular building is divided into a smoking and a non-smoking section. There are about 15 computer stations in each area. People buy internet time, get an account and with a few clicks can uncover potential cash and prizes on a computer screen. “You get 100 points for every dollar of internet time you buy.  And you’re entering an infinite pool of sweepstakes prizes, which is redeemed for cash.”  Two cents from each spin from every machine goes into a Community Board. And players have a chance to win 20 dollars to several thousand. But according to current North Carolina law--these games are illegal. And as of January 4, sweepstakes parlors across the state shut down. Sprinkle criticizes the state’s law that negatively accuses the sweepstakes industry of harming communities. He points out North Carolina owns ABC stores that sell alcohol. “I have family members who’ve drank their livers away or drink themselves into the grave. And or hurt or killed somebody through motor vehicle accidents. Which comes from the alcohol the government is providing.  And if someone was to saw it’s gambling and that’s evil…who’s to choose the evil?”  Sprinkle says Game On Sweepstakes is open because the game software has been changed to show a player in advance of spinning if they have won.  Patrons can select from about 20 games. What you see on the screen resembles the images on a slot machine. One point equals one cent. And players can win additional spins…racking up more points. "Now they have a pre-reveal on it. It’s pre-revealing to you without it spinning, without it entertaining you. And if you want to click again to see a picture, then you can."  He also says many people come to Game On Sweepstakes to use the internet for job search and do school homework because they don’t have access at home or they don’t have a computer. Meanwhile, Sprinkle encourages North Carolina lawmakers to take advantage of sweepstakes cafes as a lucrative asset. "This would be a great place to find some tax money because there’s a lot of money generated at these places. Everybody’s happy. It’s a win-win situation for everyone." According to Sprinkle, he’s spoken with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s department and was told they have no plans of checking up on the games in his sweepstakes cafe.  In the Triad and across the state, many law enforcement agencies have not enforced the ban. They say they're waiting for state legislators to determine if the new internet sweepstakes game software is legal.