We don’t envy the beat cops who have to enforce North Carolina’s law against sweepstakes gaming businesses, also known as Internet cafes or parlors.
What a mess.
Back in the day, there was a television commercial where a frustrated consumer kept having to deal with an evasive salesman. All the poor man wanted to know was how much the item he planned to purchase would cost him.
Time and again, the addled consumer would ask, “All I wanna know is how much?”
Instead of getting a simple and straight answer, he’d get the runaround. The slick salesman babbled on and on about the product, but never answered the question.
Mr. Frustrated Consumer, forehead wrinkled, hands beginning to shake from growing agitation, would pleading ask again: “All I wanna know is how much?”
It must be that way for our community of police officers — the men and women we look to for law and order — officers of the law who are charged with the duty of enforcing local ordinances and state laws must be wondering: “Are they illegal or not?”
After the latest round of yes, no, maybe when it comes to the legality of sweepstakes gaming machines, those police officers and sheriff’s deputies must be about ready to pull their hair out.
Some lawyers and some judges are certainly not making it easy for the police.
After two years of litigation, the contested matter seemed finally settled in December when our state’s highest court upheld the 2010 state law that outlaws the sweepstakes businesses. That should have been the end of it, but it was not.
As we have reported in the Daily Journal, law enforcement in Richmond County — and across the state — moved quickly in January to shut down the illegal gaming operations. Lawyers for a gaming software company had other ideas and found a judge in an upstate county who put the skids, temporarily, on some enforcement efforts.
Two weeks ago, Superior Court Judge Robert Johnson signed a temporary restraining order that prohibited law enforcement agencies from taking action against sweepstakes business owners who use software made by International Internet Technologies.
The state Attorney General’s Office rightly stepped in and fought to get the entire case thrown out of court.
The state’s motion to dismiss was filed based on a “lack of subject matter jurisdiction because all issues in this case have been decided … ,” the motion said in part.
The state argued that the issues in the original case called Hest, International Internet Technologies v. State ex rel. Perdue are the same issues in the Davidson County case and the Supreme Court had already made a decision about the original case.
“Plaintiffs’ effort to claim that the games ‘system’ they provide now has different timing, or other different facets, does not elude the statute’s reach, or Supreme Court’s holding,” the motion said.
Judge Johnson came to his senses and dismissed the case.
While it would be nice to believe that’s the end of it, lawyers for the gaming industry vow to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping for a friendly audience there.
They shouldn’t bet on it.