Patrons can play blackjack and other games of chance while enjoying the barbecue at Lancaster's Bar-B-Que & Wings on Rinehart Road, and receive cash payouts from the popular longtime eatery if they win.
Or they can cozy up to any of the 25 Internet screens offering such games as "Bustin Vegas," "Robbin Some Cash" and "Four Leaf Luck" at a new Internet sweepstakes business in Shoppes at the French Quarter on Williamson Road.
"Win cash prizes," boasts a banner outside another such establishment, Turn 2 Net, on N.C. 150 near Morrison Plantation Parkway.
The Observer found eight electronic gaming establishments in Mooresville last week after the Mooresville Board of Commissioners voted to tighten restrictions on other such venues that come to town.
Such businesses are legal if they've paid the required $10 annual business license fee with the town.
The commissioners acted after Zoning Administrator Tammy Heck told them more applications for electronic gaming were on the way.
"We have six right now," Heck said. "In another month, we'll have four more."
The commissioners unanimously banned future electronic gaming establishments in areas zoned "neighborhood mixed use" and to limit their size to 2,000 square feet. The board set the minimum age of players at 21 and hours at 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (closed Sundays).
The commissioners also banned the sale, consumption and possession of alcohol at such establishments and limited the number of electronic gaming machines, terminals and computers to five.
Existing gaming businesses will be grandfathered in, meaning they'll be exempt from the new rules.
Not all the businesses offering electronic gaming appear to have paid the legally required $10 license fee to have the games.
Heck said some businesses the Observer found may not know they had to register them. She said she intends to visit them, including Lancaster's. Owner Jeffrey Lancaster couldn't be reached last week..
The Observer also found electronic gaming signs, banners or machines at Duckworth's Food Market on N.C. 150 near Bluefield Road; and at "Internet sweepstakes" businesses in the Brawley Commons shopping center at Williamson and Brawley School roads and in the Port Village shopping center on N.C. 150 at Interstate 77 Exit 36; and on North Broad Street near the National Guard Armory.
The newspaper then paid 10 cents at Mooresville Town Hall for a one-page list of businesses with electronic gaming that have paid the required annual $10 fee with the town.
Most of the businesses the Observer came across had registered with the town, including Turn 2 Net; P & P Internet at 129 Williamson Road; Mooresville Business Center Inc. at 516 River Highway (N.C. 150); and three separate businesses at 710 N. Broad St.
Such Internet sweepstakes operations "have mushroomed" across the state, Christopher McLaughlin wrote in an April 29 blog, citing the eight alone in Durham, where they outnumber movie theaters. McLaughlin is assistant professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government.
But the legal status of Internet sweepstakes games could change this summer, when the General Assembly convenes, McLaughlin wrote in an earlier blog. "Some members have proposed outlawing these businesses, while others say the state should regulate and tax them," McLaughlin wrote.
An Internet sweepstakes operator known as Mt. Airy Business Center sued Kannapolis in federal court in April. The lawsuit contends the city violated the U.S. and N.C. constitutions and state law when it adopted zoning regulations and privilege license taxes aimed at Internet sweepstakes operators, McLaughlin wrote.
Heck said that case involves a tax on each gaming machine; Mooresville charges the same flat retail license fee it does to other retailers in town for the privilege of operating the games. The fee is $10 a year.
McLaughlin said the General Assembly could render moot such legal wrangling as in the Kannapolis case by passing new criminal laws or by deciding that the tax revenue stream belongs to the state and not cities.
"If not, more legal challenges to local ordinances are likely," McLaughlin wrote. "Either way, Internet sweepstakes will remain in the headlines for months to come."