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N.C. Opinions: Wilmington

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Maybe Republicans can finally end online gambling

From an editorial in the (Wilmington) Star News on Monday:

The N.C. Supreme Court affirmed the state’s right to ban gambling establishments – “Internet sweepstakes parlors,” if you prefer the polite term – but that hasn’t stopped a determined gaming industry from trying every possible angle to legalize the parasitic businesses.

Now a judge in Davidson County has tossed out a lawsuit that sought to prevent enforcement of that ban. Good.

We’ve heard the arguments of these companies, whose Internet “cafes” and “parlors” quickly multiplied even as the N.C. General Assembly visited and revisited a 2006 ban on video poker machines. Conflicting rulings left both opponents and supporters to wait for the cases to make their way through the courts.

They finally made it to the state Supreme Court last year, where the justices ruled that the state can keep these businesses from operating. Justice Robin Hudson, who authored the opinion, called the industry’s arguments that they were only selling Internet time “a mere pretext for the conduct of a de facto gambling scheme.”

Many of the sweepstakes businesses that were allowed to remain open while that case was on appeal have thumbed their noses at licensing fees imposed by cities and counties.

The gaming industry wants these businesses to stay open and has painted a rosy picture in which the state and cities could regulate and tax sweepstakes businesses. But its track record of end-run attempts around the law and its propensity for suing don’t bode well for a happy relationship between these businesses and government.

Even now, industry representatives are trying to figure out ways to change the technology so the courts won’t be able to see through the ruse of an innocuous, Internet-based business that just happens to allow people to gamble online.

Enough.

The video poker industry was able to move into North Carolina with the help of Democrats. Video poker and the state lottery passed over the objection of Republicans. The GOP now controls the House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion, and the industry’s friends in the legislature may not be able to get such favorable treatment, assuming the current crop of lawmakers follows in the footsteps of their anti-gambling predecessors.

The General Assembly already has spoken – three times. The courts have spoken, too. And both sides are pointing to the exit for “sweepstakes” operators. When will they finally take the hint?

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