Havelock police are not immediately cracking down on sweepstakes business owners whose machines may be illegal. Instead, they hope the owners take actions themselves before they get involved.
Police Chief G. Wayne Cyrus said that he would be meeting with city manager, possibly on Monday, to determine a course of action.
A N.C. Supreme Court ruling last month cleared the way for a law that makes the gambling machines illegal in North Carolina.
Cyrus said he hoped that business owners who have operated the machines will voluntarily comply with the new law by taking the illegal machines out of operation on their own before police have to get involved.
“The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the machines are illegal and the court also denied an appeal form some of those business owners asking that that ruling be set aside so what we have is a situation where the new law does take affect and those that continue to operate do so at their own risk,” Cyrus said.
Cindy Morgan, Havelock city clerk, said 10 businesses in the city operated sweepstakes machines and paid a sweepstakes business privilege tax to operate legally until the new law and court ruling.
Havelock earned $48,000 in revenue for the last fiscal year from the businesses.
The Havelock News contacted businesses with the machines, and the ones who could be reached and would comment said they were complying with the new law but weren’t necessarily happy about it.
“We stopped Monday and put signs on them. By the law we shut it down,” said Matt Mistry, manager at U.S. Mini Mart, at 221 East Main St.
Mistry said that he planned on getting new software for his two consoles that could make the machines legal.
A representative from Food Fare at 227 West Main St. said that the three machines in the store, which are not owned by the business, are shut down and are not being used.
A bartender from Friends Billiard and Pub at 571 U.S. 70 West, who did not want to be named, said that the three machines that the business had were taken out on Thursday. She said that the machines were popular and were used a lot, especially on weekends. She said customers were outraged that the machines had to be taken out.
“Even people that don’t use them are outraged about it,” she said. “It’s our right to gamble if we want to.”
Other businesses that are listed by the city as having the sweepstakes machines include
Jean’s Place at 33 East Main St., Internet Sweepstakes at 466 U.S. 70 West, Internet Connections at 103 Bells St., Falls Boys Inc. at 223 West Main St., BJ Billiards at 466 Westbrook Shopping Center, Ben’s Beach Bingo at 103 Bells St., and B and B Internet Access at 103 Bells St.
Cyrus said Friday that the police department would be considering guidelines from the N.C. League of Municipalities to determine the right course of action on dealing with businesses where the machines had been operating.
The Carteret County Sheriff’s office joined with Newport police in checking 13 businesses that had machines on Thursday. Of those, two were not in compliance with the new law, according to a release.
Sweepstakes Warehouse at Courtesy Town Square in Newport and H&D Express on N.C. 24 in Broad Creek shut down their machines upon request and were cooperative when informed they were not in compliance, the release said.
Businesses that violate the new law could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor on the first offense, a Class H felony for the second offense and a Class G felony on the third or later offenses, according to the release.