The North Carolina Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments today on two lawsuits related to casino-style video games. This comes after two different trial court judges gave different answers last year to the legality of a 2010 law approved by the North Carolina General Assembly. The mixed message delivered by the courts is confusing everyone – from law enforcement to business owners who want to offer their customers access to the machines. Advocates for the law said the change was necessary to end the use of "casino-style video games" that were taking money from citizens three years after a ban on traditional video poker machines in the state took effect.
A Wake County judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by an amusement machine company and upheld the law designed to eliminate video and Internet-based sweepstakes games. Another judge – this time in Guilford County, struck down a portion of the sweepstakes ban as too broad and violation of the First Amendment.
Now it's up to a three-judge panel, which will spend up to two hours hearing arguments in each case. The appellate judges likely won't rule for weeks or months on the cases. Some believe that the fight could end up going all the way to the state's supreme court depending on how the Appeals Court rules.
Of course, the state Attorney General's Office is defending the state in both cases, and asking the panel to uphold the law, which took effect last Dec. 1.
In the Guilford County case, Hest Technologies and International Internet Technologies software sued the state. They market long-distance phone and Internet services that are sold at outlets across the state. They say the computer games they use are a marketing gimmick, not gambling, which allow customers to uncover potential cash and prizes by clicking on computer screens.
Attorneys for the companies said in a court filing that the appeals court should throw out the entire 2010 law because it actually criminalizes "story-driven, arcade-style video games that are wholly unrelated to gambling."
In the Wake County case, Sandhill Amusements argued the 2010 law made it illegal for the company to use video games to show the results of a sweepstakes related to sales of long-distance phone time.
State attorneys told police and sheriff's deputies to enforce only parts of the law that were upheld by both trial judges — and closing down casino-style games and those "not dependent on the skill or dexterity of the player." Other sweepstakes outlets or retailers continued to operate in the days following by replacing slots and Pot-o-Gold with cartoon-style games.
We will have more on this story as it develops.
Source: The Republic
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