Police said they served warrants this week on two owners of Internet sweepstakes centers in Lincolnton after undercover investigations last month revealed the businesses were operating illegally.
Detectives charged both Victor Odell Boulware, 50, of 14114 Montecastillo Place in Charlotte, on Feb. 7 and Freddie Clifford Smith, 72, of 4520 Lake Drive in Sherrills Ford, on Feb. 6, each with one felony count of operating a video gaming machine.
Police said Boulware, owner of B&B Sweepstakes on North Aspen Street, and Smith, owner of Lincoln Business Center on East Main Street, were each operating their Internet video gaming centers outside of state law. A state statute banning such facilities had been struck down by a Court of Appeals ruling, but the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed that decision in December and upheld the 2010 law.
Internet sweepstakes centers across North Carolina were given until Jan. 3 to close.
However, police said sometime in mid-January the two local businesses reopened after installing a software update to their computers, disguising the fact that their Internet games were still gambling.
Officers said they conducted undercover operations at both locations on Jan. 20 and discovered the businesses were still paying winnings to customers who played the “slot-like” games. Police seized cash and computer terminals from each location.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office aided police in serving the sites with warrants, and Sheriff David Carpenter later issued a letter to all Internet sweepstakes businesses throughout the county, advising they remain closed or else suffer the consequences of disobeying the law.
Both men have since been released on a $5,000 unsecured bond apiece, police said.