CLAYTON — Despite a court ruling outlawing them, three Internet sweepstakes parlors remain open in Clayton, and no one is moving to shut them down.
The Clayton Police Department says it is awaiting guidance from the states Alcohol Law Enforcement agency.
To date, however, we have not received any guidance from this agency on the proper manner to move forward with prosecutions and seizures, said town spokeswoman Stacy Beard.
Like Clayton police, Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle says she is waiting for ALE to green-light the prosecution of sweepstakes operators. Thats a more cautious stance than Doyle took in the spring, when she said her office would prosecute any parlors that remained open after the court ruling.
The decision by Clayton police and the DA to follow ALEs lead would appear to contradict guidance from the N.C. Attorney Generals Office, which has said that sweepstakes parlors are a local law enforcement matter.
Our advice to law enforcement about enforcement of the law remains that they investigate video sweepstakes operations in their area to determine what games are being played, consult with their local district attorney and then take any enforcement action they think necessary against violators, Noelle Talley, the AGs spokeswoman, said in an email. They are welcome to consult with our office as needed, as many have.
The stance by Clayton police and the Johnston DA would also appear to ignore a reality: ALE is no hurry to shut down sweepstakes parlors.
Spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said ALE agents are not arresting sweepstakes operators because that is not their primary mission under North Carolina law.
N.C. General Statute 18B-500 says, The primary responsibility of an agent shall be enforcement of the ABC laws, lottery laws and (the Controlled Substances Act); however, an agent may perform any law-enforcement duty assigned by the Secretary of Public Safety or the Governor.
Even if ALE agents were inclined to shut down sweepstakes parlors, they might not have the agents to do so. ALE says its number of agents will fall from 110 to 80 in wake of the General Assembly cutting its budget by $1.75 million this year.
Clayton Town Manager called for more dialogue among local law enforcement, the Attorney Generals Office and ALE. In the past, we looked to be the lead on video poker machines and things that predated the sweepstakes, he said.
Town coffers do benefit from the sweepstakes parlors. So far this year, the town has collected $28,300 from the parlors in various fees and taxes. The town had budgeted none of that money after the court ruling.
Clayton Councilman Michael Grannis put the enforcement onus on ALE. I believe its more of an ALE law at this stage since they deal with gambling, he said.
And its not about a financial benefit to the town for me, Grannis said. If theyre illegal in the eyes of the ALE, they need to be closed.
Grannis said hed like to know whether the Clayton parlors are breaking the law. After the court ruling, many parlors changed their practices and now argue that their games are legal under North Carolina law.
Are the ones in Clayton skirting the issue? I dont know, Grannis said.