Mixed messages with sweepstakes parlors - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Mixed messages with sweepstakes parlors

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Sweepstakes----one day, they are open. The next day, they are closed. Some say state leaders are giving mixed messages about these popular hangouts. Are they legal? Could you get in trouble by going to one?

WBTV spoke with industry big wigs and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to help sort out some of the confusion over what makes a parlor legal, and what makes them illegal.

For years, playing sweepstakes games has been a popular pastime for thousands across the state. The sweepstakes debate is a multimillion dollar one, and it's very confusing. WBTV spoke with Eric Sigemon. He owns the Top Dawg sweepstakes parlor in North Charlotte and has been in the business for five years.

"It's not a business that should be demonized. We're about people. We are about the camaraderie," Sigemon said.

Three years ago lawmakers passed a ban on sweepstakes, but it didn't last long. A judge ruled the games constitutional. Things changed again last fall, when the North Carolina State Supreme Court put the ban back in place.
 
That's why police started to close down sweepstakes parlors starting in January. Sigemon closed his in January, but then reopened after deciding he's following the law.

"There's not been a set policy to come down and say this is the way it's going to be," said sweepstakes attorney Philip Mohr. 

Mohr blames Attorney General Roy Cooper's office for lack of communication to parlor owners.

"You now have 100 different counties all weighing in. Is this proper? Does this comply? Does it not comply?," Mohr said.

WBTV took these questions directly to Attorney General Cooper in Raleigh.

"The most important issue is that the law is in place that says they cannot operate. We're going to continue to work with local law enforcement and prosecutors and help them enforce the law," he said.

Cooper says he's telling authorities to shut down sweepstakes parlors and machines. Cooper says the North Carolina State Supreme Court ruling upholding the sweepstakes ban helps to back up his demand.

"This has given local law enforcement and prosecutors a window of opportunity to go after sweepstakes and enforce the law," he said.

While Cooper says the games are illegal, Sigemon says there's a new software that he says makes the games legal.

"We've been fighting this industry for years and it's been like Whack-A-Mole," Cooper said.

Sigemon and Mohr walked us through the new software. They say the legal loophole is this: your winnings are determined before you even play, taking away any gambling simulation. Both say that elimination of chance means that it's not gambling, and it's legal. Sigemon wants Cooper to consider a compromise and begin taxing the sweepstakes industry. 

"They are starving for money. The schools have no money. Police departments have no money and fire departments have no money. They are building $200 million additions to stadiums but they can't fund everything else. We could help with those things," Sigemon said.

Cooper's office says adding a tax to the industry would first need to become law, and that's done with the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor McCrory's signature. 

Cooper says his job is to follow the laws. If you'd like to read them, we've posted links below. Would you like to know if you are following or breaking the law? Click below to read more.

http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_14/GS_14-306.1A.html

http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_14/GS_14-306.3.html

http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_14/GS_14-306.4.html

http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByArticle/Chapter_14/Article_37.html

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