Court ruling allows internet sweepstakes to open temporarily in NC

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – An injunction issued from a North Carolina Superior Court Judge has allowed sweepstakes businesses to operate once again in the state.

Superior Court Judge Ebern Watson issued the injunction on behalf of Sandhill Amusements Inc. and Gift Surplus LLC, who were challenging a law the General Assembly passed several years ago that banned the sweepstakes businesses.

The injunction prohibits any law enforcement in the state from enforcing that law.

“Anytime a superior court judge gets involved or gives the order, it’s to be carried out statewide,” said Major Ryan Dawson with the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2014, Lenoir County District Attorney Matt Delbridge determined sweepstakes were operating in violation of the state law, and informed the ALE that all sweepstakes businesses in the county be closed.

But with the recent injunction, Maj. Dawson said their hands are tied.

“You never know the true constitutionality of a law until it goes through the court system,” he said.

When lawmakers were debating the issue, safety was among one of the concerns with sweepstakes businesses, many of which operated late into the night.

In Lenoir County, one sweepstakes shop, the Bonus Spins Internet Cafe, was robbed at gunpoint on August 2 just after 11 p.m.

Some in the area fear that could be them next time.

“I thought if they could rob them, they could come down here to get us,” said Janice Lassister, who lives down the street from Bonus Spins.

Lawmakers are also frustrated with the injunction. In a statement, Pitt County Rep. Greg Murphy said:

“While this issue predated my tenure in the Legislature, I fully support the process that led to the passage of this law. At present the issue is tied up in the courts which frustrates law enforcement as to what actions, if any, to take regarding the legality of internet sweepstakes. I would hope that the judiciary would expedite their decision making process so as to provide clarity for everyone on the enforcement of this statute.”

WNCT reached out to Judge Watson’s office, but was told he could not comment on an ongoing case.