BanBuster Games Spread One Parlor At A Time
Two Brunswick County internet sweepstakes companies which were shut down are suing the city and state. On May 22, separate suits were filed by the companies at the Brunswick County Superior Court for seizing their operations without proper review. A refund of fees paid to the towns since 2010 is sought for, when municipalities statewide were allowed to increase the fees charged for operating a sweepstakes business.
Bans on sweepstakes gambling took effect in December and the suits are part of the larger legal battles and backlash sweeping the state. District Attorneys Ben David and Jon David were prompted by the ban to send a joint letter in January to law enforcement confirming that they would prosecute violations related to sweepstakes laws. Together the two represent New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Columbus and Bladen counties.
The plaintiffs in the cases – Internet Café and Sweepstakes in Leland and Calabash, were shut down by a crackdown on their operations. The same registered agent is listed by State records for the two sweepstakes parlors.
The towns and the county’s sheriffs and the district attorney’s officers did not properly inspect the operations to see if they were in compliance with state law (known as PreReveal or BanBuster Games”), the suits allege. They were not given due process despite reaching out to the enforcement agencies, the complaints state, and neither did they violate the rules under the new laws.
The suit says, “The defendants have refused to conduct a review … in order to determine compliance with applicable law because they hope instead to intimidate.”
A complaint that the privilege license fees, yearly charges based on the number of machines at a store, were upped to oppressive and unconstitutional levels, was also listed in the suit.
Both stores are seeking for refunds, the Calabash store is looking for a refund of $76,900 while the Leland store is seeking a refund of $43,850 over the course of two years.
“…. collection of unlawful privilege license fees was an abuse of (the towns’) discretion,” it reads.
An attorney with Morrisville-based Morningstar Law Group, Keith Anthony, could not comment on the lawsuits, he said.
Anthony said “Our clients have not authorized us to answer any questions directly.”
According to Libby Carlisle, assistant to Jon David, the defendants in the two cases are being represented by the N.C. Attorney General’s office. She said that the state filed a motion on July 5 to get the cases dismissed.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, Noelle Talley, said that in the region the department is also handling another case in Elizabeth City.
Talley said that “We believe the law and the ruling are clear, and we’re vigorously defending their enforcement.”
Meanwhile in New Hanover Country and Pender Country, Samantha Dooies, assistant to Ben David, said she is not aware of any lawsuits involving her office.
Enforcement will continue, she said.
Dooies also said that “The District Attorney’s Office continues to enforce the laws concerning sweepstakes throughout the district and encourages business owners needing guidance about the laws to seek legal counsel.”
Anthony represents several other clients elsewhere in the state.
“There are currently, including these two, six of them that we have filed statewide,” he said.
There have been some criminal cases in which rulings favored the former sweepstakes owners while the civil cases are pending, Anthony said. A Jackson County convenience store manager was found not guilty on a misdemeanor charge on Tuesday, by a District Court Judge, for operating a sweepstakes machines at his store, according to a news release from his attorney.
There have also been recent acquittals for two defendants in District Court cases both in Catawba and Macon counties and an unresolved lawsuit in Macon Country which seeks an injunction declaring that specific machines do not violate the North Carolina statute.
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