Sweepstakes Bill Makes N.C. Safer

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The state legislature has reconvened, and the House should quickly take up HB 577, a bill that would largely shut down huge sweepstakes houses and heighten safety in our communities.

The bill has already passed the N.C. Senate by a vote of 38–8. ...

HB 577 would make it a Class G felony to “operate or place into operation” more than four electronic gambling machines in one place, thus closing down the so-called “big rooms” and making the operations unattractive and unprofitable.

Better, it would give police and the state more tools to deal with keeping the sweepstakes joints in check.

Finally, it would be safer for communities. ...

In just the last few weeks, there have been robberies at several of the sweepstakes rooms, including one that ended with a homicide. There was another shooting outside a gambling den two nights before that.

These places attract crime and have popped up like weeds in open storefronts throughout the county. Nearly 30 have opened over the past few years, a quick way to make money even if it’s highly dangerous.

That’s not just in Alamance County. A quick Google search shows violence and mayhem in North Carolina in alarming numbers.

The bill sponsored in the state Senate was from Andy Wells, a Republican from Hickory. He told the Times-News the legislation would allow for some places to have a few games of chance while taking out the rooms that attract violence. The amount of money the big rooms keep on hand is enough to make it worthwhile for would-be robbers — who will arrive armed. The kind of security these places have has not measured up unfortunately.

In addition to the problem of violence, these places clearly cater to the poor and disenfranchised. It’s hardly an admirable business model.

... The legislation is backed by police agencies and groups that are family-oriented.

Who’s against the bill? Just those who run the sweepstakes businesses.

By bringing the bill up for the vote, the speaker could honestly claim that with one House vote, people in the state of North Carolina are demonstrably safer.

The Times-News, Burlington

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