What's Free Speech Got to Do With It?
Internet sweepstakes parlors are a form of "free speech" protected by the First Amendment? Judge John Craig, of Guilford County, has got to be kidding. And yet that's what he said in a recent ruling on a ban that went into effect this week. Though he held that the state has the right to forbid games that mimic gambling, he declared the video sweepstakes to be protected by constitutional uarantees of free expression. Go figure.
For whatever reason, Craig seems bound and determined to thwart the will of the General Assembly on this matter. He's flying in the face of common sense as well. And in so doing, he is ensuring that thousands of North Carolinians will continue to be victimized by the electronic allure of these devices, which look for all the world like Las Vegas electronic gaming devices by another name.
Internet sweepstakes parlor games are a mutant form of video poker that materialized after North Carolina outlawed the latter in 2006. The sweepstakes parlors, in turn, were banned under a law that was passed by the legislature in July and went into force this past Wednesday.
The lawmakers enacted that prohibition after concluding that there wasn't much more than a dime's worth of difference between the sweepstakes and computerized poker, both of which "take money from people when they are at their most desperate," in the words of state Sen. Josh Stein. Just how much money was indicated by the speed with which the parlors sprang up all across the state - like toadstools after a spring rain - as soon as the earlier poker ban had kicked in.
Confusion reigns right now on the status of the sweepstakes sites, especially after a Wake County judge, of a different mind from his counterpart in Guilford, ruled for the state instead of a group of amusement companies hoping to keep their lucrative operations in business.
Dueling court rulings aside, the state should stick to its guns and continue to take whatever legislative steps necessary to continue driving these "quasi-casinos," as they've been called, into a corner and into eventual extinction. Especially given the current economic straits we're all in, we don't need such sleazy operations draining money away from individuals and families who need more than ever to be spending it to cover basic needs.
More like this story