LAURINBURG — Flashing lights and sweepstakes signs beckoning passersby to try their luck may be making a comeback in Scotland County after being shut off earlier this year, when local authorities enforced a 2010 ban on video gambling establishments.
Late last year, the state Supreme Court upheld that ban on video sweepstakes machines in the state, and most of Scotland County’s sweepstakes parlors were closed throughout January and February. But one parlor owner recently won the legal battle to keep his business open after being charged in April with operating an illegal gambling facility.
“They came in and said we were running an illegal operation, but the judge saw different,” said Robert Outlaw, owner of two Carolina Cyber Center locations on South Main Street and Leisure Road. “We went to court and we won our case, so the Blue Diamond system won.”
Outlaw’s two businesses have been open since last week, shortly after the Blue Diamond software with which his businesses’ machines are equipped was ruled by District Court Judge Regina Joe to comply with the existing legislature prohibiting video sweepstakes.
Charges were also dismissed against customers who were present in Carolina Cyber Center and charged with illegal gambling when the business was closed by law enforcement earlier this year.
The state statute, G.S. 14-306.4, hinges upon use of “an entertaining display,” or “visual information, capable of being seen by a sweepstakes entrant, that takes the form of actual game play, or simulated game play” in the process of entering the sweepstake or the revelation of prizes.
The Blue Diamond software used by Carolina Cyber Center falls into a class of pre-reveal software, which prompts customers to click a reveal button when they begin their interaction with the machine. That button simply shows the user, without use of graphics such as a simulated roulette wheel, whether or not they have won. At that point, when the sweepstakes portion of the session has ended, users may then opt to play the “game.”
Outlaw said that other businesses offering the same software will probably open after the new year, waiting to pay a prorated business license fee. Outlaw said he paid $10,000 for a license to open on Main Street.
“It’s just my two right now — they’re coming, though,” he said. “I don’t think they wanted to pay the full fees for the year.”
Though he anticipates further legal potholes in the future, Outlaw said that it’s worth it to him to be open for as long as he can. Though he had about half a dozen customers on Thursday afternoon, he expects more when word gets out that he’s open for business.
“You just keep fighting,” he said. “We have just as much right to be here as everybody else.”