blackjack

A new bill seeks to allow Casino-style games like blackjack at fundraisers for nonprofits. (Photograph courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Charities will soon be able to host fundraising events featuring casino-style games and alcohol without worrying about breaking the law.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation Friday that spells out the regulations for nonprofits, some employers and trade associations to hold such events occasionally. It takes effect June 1.

The law’s roots are in Moore County.

State Rep. Jamie Boles, whose district includes most of the county, sponsored the bill as well as one in 2017 that Cooper vetoed, at the urging of Pinehurst Resort as well as the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Boles and other supporters noted that these kind of events have been held for years even though they are technically illegal. But some district attorneys around the state turned a blind eye to them, while others would not.

“I am just glad he saw the need for fairness throughout the state, that everyone is treated the same,” Boles said in an interview Monday morning. “There have been more than 500 of these kinds of events in the state that are illegal.”

Boles, who chairs the House Alcohol Beverage Control committee, said he learned that Cooper signed the bill from Scott Brewton, senior vice president and general manager of Pinehurst Resort, who is also on the board of the restaurant and lodging association. He chalked that up to politics.

“I don’t care about that,” he said of not hearing from the governor’s office beforehand. “I still commend him for signing it.”

Brewton, who is a member of the association board, said Monday morning that they have been trying to get “proper” legislation passed to allow this for 10 years.

“This has been going on improperly in the state for years,” Brewton said of these game nights. “Pinehurst Resort did not want to take that chance. The law is the law. We want to do what is right. We did not want to break the law.”

Brewton said the resort and others around the state felt they were losing out on some business as a result of the existing laws.

Krueger told The Pilot in an interview for a story in February after Boles filed his bill, that she had no problem with it. She acknowledged that when someone contacted her office in the past to “clear it” with her about holding a game night event, she advised them it was violation of state law if they offered games of chance with prizes.

She said she would not “turn a blind eye” or give someone permission to break the law.

Brewton noted that in most cases, the events involved “monopoly money” and that no cash was “changing hands.” He said this is “commonsense” legislation that puts some regulations in place.

“The law spells out who can do this, qualified facilities like us,” he said. “We are very happy about this. We want to be able to offer this to appropriate organizations to have an event for a good cause.”

Brewton said Cooper’s veto of the bill in 2017 had to with his fears that it would create a loophole for video poker.

Cooper noted in his veto message two years ago he wasn’t opposed to “legitimate nonprofits holding an occasional ‘game night’ to help with donations to worthy causes,” but he said the bill could have “unintended consequences” and “could give video poker a new way to infiltrate our communities allowing the industry to masquerade as charity.”

Even though that bill — like the most recent one — passed with bipartisan support as well as some opposition from both parties, legislative leaders were unable to muster voters for a a veto override.

Boles and Brewton said this law includes provisions to address those and other concerns.

“We wanted to do it right and in a way the ALE will feel comfortable,” Brewton said of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement agency.

Before passing the House, the bill was altered to require game night vendors to obtain permits and register their gaming equipment with the Alcohol Law Enforcement branch in the Department of Public Safety. Another change prohibits cash prizes from being awarded at the game nights. Two Senate committees also made some changes to the bill.

Nonprofits organizations would have to obtain a permit and pay a $100 fee. They could hold up to four game nights a year.

Boles said he did not expect Cooper to veto this bill because of the significant bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate, but he did not know whether the governor would actually sign it or let it become law without his signature.

Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter told The News & Observer of Raleigh that the governor's concerns have been addressed.

Brewton credited passage of the law to a “good partnership” between the General Assembly and the restaurant and lodging association.

“We are excited about this,” Brewton said. “We think we will have the opportunity to host some of these events here.”

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

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