NC Supreme Court upholds ban on video sweepstakes
Dec 14, 2012 (The News & Observer (Raleigh - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The state Supreme Court on Friday upheld the state's ban on video sweepstakes machines, overturning the state Appeals Court rulings that said regulating the games violated the Constitutional right to free speech.
The legislature has repeatedly tried to outlaw video poker and other forms of gaming, but sweepstakes parlors found ways around the laws. A dozen companies sought to overturn a 2010 law banning video sweepstakes.
Lawyers for gaming companies presented the sweepstakes as a means of attracting customers for long-distance phone minutes or Internet services. Customers who buy Internet or phone minutes get the chance to use in-house computers to search for cash or other prizes.
In its opinion, the court said the sweepstake companies "have attempted to 'skillfully disguise' conduct with a facade of speech to gain First Amendment protection for their conduct."
The legislature made a policy decision within its purview, the opinion says, "and we decline to weigh in on that decision other than to conclude that it is constitutional because there is a rational basis for it."
The sweepstakes industry became a subject of debate between Gov. Bev Perdue and the Republican-controlled legislature this year when Perdue proposed, as long as the sweepstakes were still operating, taxing the games to raise money for schools. Legislative leaders declined to consider it.
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