Local law enforcement agencies said they cracked down this week on Internet video sweepstakes centers across the city and county following a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling last month that upheld the state’s ban on such businesses.
The decision, which reversed an earlier appellate court’s ruling that said banning such sweepstakes would restrain free speech, was handed down Dec. 14 following a couple months of hearings in the case.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Lincolnton Police Department teamed up this week to shut down any centers still in operation. The businesses had until Thursday to cease operations.
“We are working together to make sure these businesses comply with the law,” Police Lieutenant Brian Greene said.
The last of the four sweepstakes centers across the county shutdown around midnight on Wednesday, Sheriff David Carpenter said.
At least five such businesses were in operation throughout city limits, Greene said.
Deputies went around to each of the county sites this week and advised them to shut down. Carpenter told the Times-News late last month that if any of the businesses refused to do close, the Sheriff’s Office would have to confiscate all funds and property.
Carpenter wasn’t positive whether all of the city sweepstakes locations had shut down but was confident all had closed. He said at least three that he visited on Thursday had shut down on time and that they complied with the law after hearing about the deputies’ visits to county businesses.
Carpenter also spoke with Lincoln and Cleveland County District Attorney Rick Shaffer on Thursday, who told the sheriff he is on board when and if charges need to be filed against a person violating the new state law. If necessary, deputies will make arrests, Carpenter told the Times-News.
“We will do just that,” he said.
Back in August, county officials established new laws that allowed the gambling centers to stay open as long as none were located in or near residential zoning districts, churches and schools and complied with new access and visibility requirements, certain hours of operation and parking specifications, the Times-News previously reported.
City officials, on the other hand, voted this fall not to make any stipulations on sweepstakes businesses. Instead, they waited for the N.C. Supreme Court to make a final ruling.
The local laws were rendered obsolete once the court reinstate the statewide ban on such centers.