Lenoir Co. commissioners discuss restrictions on still operating sweepstakes cafes

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Lenoir County commissioners sent proposed restrictions of sweepstakes cafes to its planning board for examination.

Commissioner Eric Rouse called for a 1,000 foot buffer between the businesses and schools, churches and residential neighborhoods. He also wanted the businesses to close between 2 and 8 a.m.

Sweepstakes owner Janice Thompson spoke against the proposal saying her business is being unfairly targeted.

She said the restrictions, if put into effect, will hurt her business.

“Many employees will lose their jobs,” she said. “It will be devastating and also heartbreaking with Christmas around the corner.”

Thompson’s business and other cafes currently in operation will be exempt from the 1,000 foot rule.

The “grandfather clause” angered Bill Langston, Jr. who lives next to a sweepstakes cafe and complains of heavy traffic and noise.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Langston said. “I’m very disappointed.”

The North Carolina General Assembly outlawed sweepstakes machines, but a feature in the software, which tells a player whether they’ll win or not before they play, has led to debate over its legality.

Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram and District Attorney Matt Delbridge have allowed the businesses to operate. Sheriff Ingram considered these machines part of a “legal gray area.”

There is no information yet on when the planning board will present final recommendations.

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