WP Council Postpones Gaming Decision
Despite plenty of input from individuals on both sides of the issue, the Whispering Pines Village Council has postponed approval of a permit to allow electronic gaming in the village.
Held under the guidelines of a quasi-judicial proceeding, council members heard testimony from representatives of SAS Food Mart, Inc. who had requested a Major Special Use Permit from the council. Such a permit would allow the company to establish an electronic gaming business in a building adjacent to the Blue Top Grocery at the intersection of Highway 22 and Ray’s Bridge Road.
Village Attorney T.C. Morphis, Jr. was in attendance to clarify and explain the procedure to the participants.
"The main things to remember are that opinions cannot be heard in this process. When you make your decisions or state something in connection with the issue being heard, it must be based on information in the record. Council members need to recuse themselves if they have a predetermined opinion that is not likely to be subject to change."
The first witness, an SAS representative whose name was unavailable at press time, was sworn in first.
"We want to bring a new business to the area, one that will bring new employment," he said. I want to bring help both to my business and to area residents, since this building has stood empty for a long time."
Council members asked the representative in attendance for clarification on how the electronic gaming process worked.
"We own the hardware while we rent the software," he said. "The customer puts money in the machine and plays. The amount of money we make depends on whether or not he or she wins or loses."
In response to some audience members' assertions that the business was illegal, Morphis explained that this type of gaming has been declared legal, at least for the present, by the North Carolina General Assembly.
"Electronic gaming is different from Vegas-style gambling in significant ways," he said. "Winning and losing is predetermined, kind o f like playing monopoly at McDonald's. The General Assembly tried to outlaw this twice, but the courts upheld it. It looks like gambling, but the courts say it's not."
Council members asked the representative a number of questions that pertained to parking, to preventing persons under age 18 from entering the premises, to the building's septic system, and many more.
Mayor pro-tem Randy Saunders said he would be unable to vote on the permit without official acknowledgement of some of the questions asked by council.
"I don't see how we can approve this without hearing back from the county, for example, on whether or not the septic system is adequate," Saunders said. "There are still many questions we have that need answers."
Mayor Bob Zschoche agreed, and recessed the hearing until the next village council meeting.
In other news, council voted 3 to 2 in favor of adopting a Recreation and Open Space Master Plan for the village.
The plan would utilize space to create parks, greenways, playgrounds, bicycle riding and walking trails, and more.
Zschoche and council member Jerry Osbourne opposed the motion.
"We are considering a plan to install walking and biking trails that would cost $100,000 to $1 million per mile," Osborne said. "We can't afford this. It's a low priority item, and if you want to walk trails there are two nearby. Just go over to Reservoir Park. We have more pressing issues than this."
But Saunders disagreed.
"Using that logic, we should let Southern Pines use our lakes since we're using their trails," he said.
More like this story