Police make headway on Internet sweepstakes

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Slowly but surely – despite some inconsistencies – police and deputies across North Carolina are enforcing a state ban against Internet sweepstakes cafes.

As the Telegram has reported previously, Rocky Mount police raided three local cafes a couple of weeks ago and seized computers and cash. Now comes word that Cumberland County deputies are shutting down similar operations in the Fayetteville area.

A spokesman for the gaming industry estimated that 75 percent of the 1,000 or sweeptsakes cafes in North Carolina have shut down voluntarily as the industry contemplates further action.

The most notable exception to the ban is in Roanoke Rapids, where city officials have determined that an Internet sweepstakes cafe in the former Randy Parton Theater is operating in compliance with the law.

That’s a convenient determination, since the city of Roanoke Rapids collects $212,000 a year in licensing fees from the operation. The city owns the theater and leases it to a sweepstakes company.

Besides Roanoke Rapids, there still are questions about what constitutes compliance and what doesn’t. A number of cafes remain in operation in Rocky Mount, and police are staying tight-lipped about the possibility of further raids.

The sweepstakes issue likely will continue to play out in the state court system. Despite several legislative attempts to rid the state of Internet cafes for good, the industry has mounted legal battles to stay in operation.

For the time being, it’s good to see so many of the shops shut down.