Many Charlotte sweepstakes parlors were closed Thursday as the state ban on video sweepstakes machines went into effect. Some had signs up indicating their closures would be temporary.
Closed until further notice. Hope to be back soon, read a handwritten note on the darkened Plaza Sweepstakes hall on The Plaza.
Others gave no notice of whether they would try to reopen. The open 24/7 sign on the A&A Sweepstakes in the 2900 block of Eastway Drive was turned off, and the front door was locked. The parking lot at Brookshire Business Center Sweepstakes was empty. Inside Midwood Sweepstakes on Central Avenue, chairs were stacked, computer screens blank.
Law enforcement agencies in Charlotte and across the state Thursday began enforcing the ban on the video sweepstakes machines, which the N.C. Supreme Court upheld last month. Sweepstakes parlors use these machines to attract customers who want to play arcadelike games in the hopes of winning money. Enforcement of the video sweepstakes ban was expected to vary widely around the state.
Meanwhile, sweepstakes parlor owners across the state planned to respond by changing the machines in a way that would escape the ban.
Probably 90 percent of the operators will close down voluntarily, said Brad Crone, a spokesman for the Internet Based Sweepstakes Operators. Some operators may be looking at new software and new gaming options that will more than likely have to be tested in a series of new court cases.
In Charlotte, police planned to investigate complaints on a case-by-case basis, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police attorney Mark Newbold said.
Many Charlotte-area sweepstakes operators will wait to see whether they can install new software that would make their businesses legal, said Joey Cox, who used to own Spinners Sweepstakes and now leases it to another manager.
The owner of Midwood Sweepstakes, who did not want to be named, said he shut down the business Thursday as a result of the ban and did not know whether he would reopen. He planned to consider updating the machines to make them legal, he said.
Last month, attorneys for two companies that provide the software for the machines wrote a letter to different cities including Charlotte saying they planned to comply with the ruling. They said they would convert their machines to a kind of software that did not violate the law.
Gov.-elect Pat McCrory said Thursday the ban will be revisited somehow because of all the legal maneuvering and interpretations by the industry. McCrory said he also would speak with legislative leaders soon about the issue. The Associated Press, Observer reporter Steve Harrison and Observer researcher Marion Paynter contributed.