Some NC lawmakers willing to take a gamble on sweepstakes parlors

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — They’re called sweepstakes, business centers or fish games and they’re basically mini-casinos.

For years law enforcement has tried to crack down on them. CBS 17 first told you about the growing trend in 2019. A bill now is being proposed that would regulate them.

The idea is to put rules in place for how sweepstakes parlors are allowed to operate and require that they have licenses and certifications.

Many people call them “fish tables,” basically video games participants can bet money on. In North Carolina, they’re legal if they’re a game of skill and not chance.

But for years law enforcement has struggled to enforce that.

“They’re breeding grounds for crime — citizens complain to the sheriff when their spouse loses their rent money or their grocery money,” said Eddie Caldwell with the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.

The measure is called House Bill 954. Under the bill, the lottery commission would issue licenses to run one of the businesses. The measure would cap the number of manufacturers and operators, retailers would have to hold an active Alcoholic Beverage Control license, and would only be able to operate a maximum of six machines.

“Gambling and alcohol is a bad combination, and requiring that there be alcohol be present, which is what this bill would do, its throwing gasoline on the fire,” Caldwell said.

In a committee meeting earlier this week, Caldwell expressed concerns.

Some of the revenue from the bill would go to fund a forgivable loan program from students attending community colleges and help some state colleges.

“They should be regulated since not a lot of casinos are here in North Carolina,” said Alwaleed Alsafadi, the manager of a sweepstakes parlor in Raleigh.

CBS 17 asked Alsafadi if he had any concerns working at such a business.

“Not really, not really,” he responded.

CBS 17 reached out to Rep. Harry Warren (R-Salisbury) who sponsored the bill for an interview. We were told he doesn’t do those. In the committee meeting, he said he would welcome suggestions.

It’s unclear if the bill has enough support to pass.

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