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Feds steering sweepstakes crackdown
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Feds steering sweepstakes crackdown
N.C. ALE raided 2 Wilson businesses Wednesday




Federal authorities are behind this week’s N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement raids of video sweepstakes businesses in Wilson and throughout eastern North Carolina, officials said Thursday.

U.S. attorney’s spokesman Don Connelly said federal prosecutors are involved in a regional operation aimed at seizing sweepstakes machines. ALE agents served search warrants at two Wilson convenience stores and at least one other Wilson County business on Wednesday.

"There are multiple locations throughout our district” where searches are taking place, Connelly said. The state’s eastern federal district includes 44 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and stretches from Raleigh to the Outer Banks.

ALE agents served search warrants at Turner’s Mini Mart at 1327 Ward Blvd. and Sunny Food Mart at 600 Ward Blvd. Wednesday afternoon. Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard Jr. said they also raided a Stantonsburg-area business.

Agents wheeled three gaming machines out of the Sunny Food Mart and loaded them into a U-Haul moving truck.

Officials were tight-lipped Thursday, declining to answer questions about the video sweepstakes crackdown until formal charges are filed.

"We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation until there’s something that comes out in the public record,” Connelly said.

The U.S. attorney’s office wouldn’t say whether the FBI or U.S. Marshals Service had partnered with state ALE agents. Connelly said there is "more than one federal agency involved.”

It was unclear whether anyone had been arrested in connection with the seized machines on Wednesday and Thursday. No one had been booked into the Wilson County Detention Center on gambling charges, but Connelly would not say whether any people were in federal custody.

Officials didn’t specify whether federal prosecutors or the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol Law Enforcement section initiated the investigation. Patty McQuillan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, referred all questions to the U.S. attorney’s office.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper didn’t call for the crackdown, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley said. Cooper has been a vocal critic of video poker and video sweepstakes games and is defending state laws banning the machines in ongoing court battles.

"The attorney general has stated for years that he wants to make sure these things are outlawed in the state, and it’s something we’re continuing to deal with as we fight the battle in court,” Talley said.

Patrons typically buy a phone card or Internet access card and receive game time on the sweepstakes machines — and the opportunity to win cash — as an added bonus. Critics say players are paying to gamble and the ancillary products they buy for game time often go unused.

The N.C. Supreme Court ruled in December 2012 that a 2007 law banning video sweepstakes games is constitutional, a decision that followed years of conflicting rulings in superior and appellate courts.

Enforcement of the ban last year and this year has been piecemeal, with police and prosecutors in some counties rushing to shut down gaming centers and authorities elsewhere leaving them largely undisturbed.

Sweepstakes halls sprung up throughout North Carolina while courts considered the games’ fate. Some cities and towns began regulating the businesses, adding zoning rules that specify where they can operate and assessing taxes for each sweepstakes machine. That allowed the parlors to claim they’re legitimate businesses but has no bearing on the legality of the games themselves.

Some game operators say they’ve developed software that doesn’t meet statutory definitions for the outlawed games. Several sweepstakes centers that authorities have raided are fighting the gambling charges in court.

"They have for years claimed that they have found ways to get around the law,” Talley said. "That’s not a new argument.”

Connelly, the spokesman for U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker of the Eastern District of North Carolina, said he wasn’t authorized to say how many businesses have been searched or how many machines have been seized.

corey@wilsontimes.com | 265-7821
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said...

Gambling happens every day. Gees how many people bet on the Lottery, sports, poker night, races, you name it.
What's the big deal? It is personal responsibility and if you are stupid enough to use your rent money for gambling, you deserve to lose it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 3:50 PM
Bigger Fish said...

Busting the "BIG" culprits who have 2, 4, or 5 machines? What about the internet people on 301 or hp? They are the ones to be busted. What is the difference? why are allowed to stay open? Yea, the little guys makes for a big bust. just saying

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 4:22 PM
ANOM said...

Why not shut down H and P, and the casino on 301, all they are doing is robbing people. The owners are committing ROBBERY of the people in the area. Why are they still open? Shut them down!

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 4:12 PM
no go said...

Might want to check - so the bigger "Internet" Cafe's on 301 are OK. Where the Moose, Elk, Shriner's and other community service organizations have their machines taken out. You jackA.

Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 2:04 PM
Rat city said...

Where did so many big mouth rats come from.Big mouth tattle tales.

Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 12:18 AM
Elks said...

Please please stop by the Elks Lodge Mr. ALE or Mr. Fed. It is impossible to prove something is not there. The mayor, state house members, Sherif Woodard , Police Chief Hopkins and countless other state and local officials have been in every room in the Elks Lodge . Not just once, but on several occasions in the past several years. No machines, nothing illegal .
If we want to cast stones let's throw a handful. Are there machines at Masonic lodges on Nash St. ? How about Mt. Hebron Lodge? Pride of Wilson? Surely they have illegal machines at the mens club at the rec. We all know illegal activity happens wherever people meet in private.
Guess you folks want every building searched, police state ?

Friday, May 09, 2014 at 5:38 PM @ Elks said...

there used to be and a regular big stakes poker game. the Elks are a wonderful organization that helps veterans and other worthy causes but nonetheless the machines and the big stakes poker games did and do go on.

Friday, May 09, 2014 at 9:09 AM Who Cares? said...

If this is the worst problem that needs attention, the world must be in a lot better shape than I can see.


Friday, May 09, 2014 at 8:24 AM Rv said...

New Hope Convenient Store

Friday, May 09, 2014 at 5:56 AM Elks said...

Please come to the Elks Lodge, NO MACHINES, nothing illegal, just a fraternal organization supporting scouting and veterans . Instead of casting stones why don't you help the Elks raise money for Wounded Warriors ?

Friday, May 09, 2014 at 5:34 AM oh said...

and the elks lodge.

Friday, May 09, 2014 at 12:15 AM might want to check said...

the back rooms at the moose lodge, shrine club and happy valley cc.

Friday, May 09, 2014 at 12:15 AM
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