Pre-Reveal Skill Games Taking Foothold in Market
RALEIGH, NC – An appeals court in North Carolina upheld the convictions of two people for violating a state ban on video sweepstakes games (NON-PRE-REVEAL SKILL) in what state Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office said was the first such ruling in a criminal case.
The three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals gave a unanimous decision which means the Edgecombe County case can’t be automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court, although the higher state court can choose to review the case.
Up and Down
The decision comes after 8+ years of back-and-forth between lawmakers, the video sweepstakes industry and the courts.
State lawmakers first passed a ban on video poker in 2006. The industry quickly adapted, introducing new sweepstakes games that operators said complied with the law. State lawmakers banned Internet-based sweepstakes games with entertaining displays in 2010 at that time the industry had already adapted to the “Pre-Reveal” Games and thus have won multiple court cases across the state.
With most sweepstakes operations, patrons buy prepaid cards giving them Internet time/ phone time/ or other products and the opportunity to uncover potential cash and prizes with mouse clicks on a computer screen. Winners take their cards to a cashier and cash out. No different than buying french fries at McDonald’s and peeling the tab to reveal your prize.
In the past two years, police in many municipalities have shut down sweepstakes cafes and arrested owners and employees. Some of those arrested have been acquitted of criminal charges because the Pre-Reveal games have been found not to violate the text of the law.
Some lower court judges have disagreed about the law and its application, leading to uneven law enforcement and the likelihood that appeals courts will again have to weigh in.
Skill and Dexterity
The Court of Appeals ruled that the convictions of sweepstakes cafe owner Richard Conoley and store manager Chapman Kawana Spruill should stick because the “video games offered at their location revealed a prize that didn’t depend on any skill or dexterity”, Judge Wanda Bryant wrote for the court and therefore violated the text of the law. Both were sentenced to 45-day jail terms, with Chapman’s sentence changed to three years of probation and Spruill given a year of probation.