by Joe Schwartz
Sen. Don Vaughan, D-Guilford, offered both pieces of legislation, which each passed their first readings and were referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The sweepstakes bill seeks to close loopholes exploited by parlor owners since the law the General Assembly passed last session became effective Dec. 1.
Lawmakers thought they ended the practice of customers paying for Internet time at cafes that they used to gamble on digital slot-machine-style games of chance. Sweepstakes owners simply closed shop for a few days and transitioned to new software that adheres to the language, but not the spirit, of the law.
The sweepstakes parlors started popping up last year after legislators banned video poker in 2007.
This bill would broaden the ban by covering all electronic machines that are used for sweepstakes, not just ones that use “simulated game play.”
“It is the intent of this section to prohibit any mechanism that seeks to avoid application of this section through the use of subterfuge or pretense whatsoever,” the bill reads.
However, there are rumblings that the legislature could soften its stance on Internet sweepstakes cafes because of the tax revenue the businesses could generate. The state faces a $3.7 billion budget gap with few options to raise revenue.
Taking aim at other vices as well, Vaughan seeks to rid the state of K-Spice or K2, a street drug sold in stores that seeks to replicate the effects of marijuana. Lawmakers nationwide are trying to designate the product a controlled substance. The National Conference of State Legislatures counts 21 states that have introduced laws to address synthetic cannabinoids this year.
The Indiana Senate unanimously passed a ban earlier this month. Today the Utah House supported making synthetic cannabis a misdemeanor offense. If passed and signed by the governor, the N.C. bill would be effective Dec. 1.