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MORGANTON, NC (WBTV) -
Video sweepstakes is now illegal in North Carolina.
A statewide ban of sweepstakes machines went into effect at midnight, on January 3rd.
The ban isn't just shutting down parlors. Some say there's a trickle down effect.
"I closed last night and the guys that usually come in didn't come in at all", says Tiffany Bowen of Jax Backstreet Tavern in Belmont.
Bowen, who works as a waitress and a bartender, says the Tavern had 3 machines. Workers removed them to comply with the state supreme court's ruling that upheld the ban on the sweepstakes machines. Bowen says business has been slow since.
"The guys that usually come in and play everyday, don't anymore. They were really upset we didn't have them anymore". Bowen says the sweepstakes regulars "would sit and drink and buy something to eat. Stay for hours".
All across the state, some are lamenting the loss of the machines.
Judy Powell is not sure what she will do.
"This is going to cost me my job," she said in reference to the new North Carolina Statute banning the sweepstakes machines. "It's real hard to find any other kind of job these days," she said.
Powell works at one of 62 places in Burke County where sweepstakes machines, known by some as video poker, have operated for the past couple of years.
The state has been trying to ban them but had been unsuccessful until the North Carolina Supreme Court last month upheld the latest statute banning the games. Some say people spend their grocery and power bill money playing the video games but people at the parlors on Wednesday said that was not the norm.
"Most of us all have food at home and all our bills paid," said Don Holman. "We're 21, why can't we spend our money the way we want to?"
Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant said both sides have good arguments but his job is to enforce the law and on Wednesday his deputies will hand deliver letters to the owners of all the machines to be sure they know what the law is.
"The games cannot be played," said Whisenant." He is also advising owners that they must dispose of the machines as well. "At the end of the month it will be illegal to possess them and it will be a criminal violation if they do."
In Mecklenburg County, WBTV spoke with people who have mixed feelings about the ban.
"In some cases it's a good decision because these people don't know how to budget right, and they go overboard," said patron Charles Morris.
Parlors owners contacted by WBTV News said they would comply with the law but have hopes that someday the games will be legal again.