Video sweepstakes 'big rooms' are a big problem

Video gambling continues in North Carolina despite efforts to stop it.
Video gambling continues in North Carolina despite efforts to stop it. N&O file photo

From an editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal on Tuesday:

As the state legislature’s short session begins to wind down, we hope there’s still time to pass an important bill that has been waiting for its attention for far too long. It’s House Bill 577, which creates a new Class G felony for video sweepstakes parlors that possess more than four electronic machines or devices within 100 feet of any other electronic sweepstakes devices — a situation some describe as running “big rooms.”

Video sweepstakes parlors are a public scourge that exploit human weakness and feed gambling addictions. They’ve found ways to survive over the past few years despite opposition from law enforcement and religious organizations and vigorous legislative efforts to get rid of them. Operators keep finding loopholes that allow them to continue operating.

Big rooms just make the situation worse. And they often wind up being nests of trouble, associated with crime and violence.

The Journal has long opposed such establishments in North Carolina, arguing that they promote a particularly addictive form of gambling that preys on the poor.

“North Carolina’s sheriffs see first-hand the criminal activity that video sweepstakes parlors invite and the harm they cause for our citizens and their vulnerable families. Decades of research clearly show the undeniable link between gambling and increases in crime, theft, divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, personal debt, bankruptcy and even suicide,” according to John L. Rustin, the president and executive director of the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

House Speaker Tim Moore has not yet brought up the bill for a vote. There’s still time before this session expires.

We wish that video sweepstakes parlors would go away. But since they won’t, the next best recourse is to mitigate their damage. Passing HB 577 would help.