ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - On Monday, Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten sent letters to 22 sweepstakes, or fish arcades, notifying them they would need to cease operations by Monday, January 20, or face arrest and seizure of equipment.
Sheriff Auten cited a large number of complaints by citizens, law enforcement agencies, and municipal planning and zoning entities. He also pointed out that many such businesses have been the scene of crime.
The businesses are called fish arcades due to the popularity of a video game in which customers can win money by shooting various fish on the screen.
The number of these arcades has grown rapidly in the last two years in Rowan County, but in neighboring Cabarrus County, it’s a different story.
“We began our enforcement in 2016 following an attempted robbery of a sweepstakes establishment,” Major Bobby Ledwell of Concord Police told WBTV. “During this incident, a robbery suspect was shot and killed by a person acting as a security guard for the business.”
In that case, Concord Police said two men went into the business, located in the 300 block of Union Cemetery Road, and pulled out guns in an attempt to rob the place.
An armed security guard shot one of the men, later identified as 32-year-old Abdur Rahim Muhammad. Police said Muhammad was pronounced dead when officers arrived on scene.
That same business had been the scene of an armed robbery a year earlier.
That incident sparked police and city officials to look at ways to regulate sweepstakes businesses.
“Prior to 2016, under prior administrations, the department attempted to determine the opening of the establishments through other methods that were not effective,” Major Ledwell added. “Since then, we have seized equipment from several businesses that were necessary for them to operate the gaming systems and subsequently charged the owner(s) under the provisions of NCGS 14-306.4.”
That’s the same general statute that Rowan Sheriff Auten said he is using in the crackdown on fish arcades.
Concord officials say it has worked well for them.
“At this time, as a result of these enforcement actions since 2016, it has been somewhat successful as a deterrent to other types of these businesses open within the city of Concord,” Ledwell added.