August 5, 2008 ( — North Carolina has outlawed Internet terminals offering gaming using pre-paid telephone cards, a popular pastime which took the place of video poker in convenience stores and restaurants following its banning in 2006.

Democrat Governor Mike Easley signed the bill last week outlawing the machines that were similar to casino slots and businesses must get rid of any terminals by December with the sole exception of Harrah's Cherokee Casino near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the west of the state.

The machines saw players buy pre-paid telephone cards that they then swiped in order to see if they had won a sweepstakes. Numerous lawmakers in the southern American state felt that the games were nothing more than a way of getting around the ban on video poker and led many people into gambling.

"They found a loophole in the video poker law to reintroduce this similar type of gaming," said Ray Rapp, a State Representative for Mars Hill.

"We get an awful lot of complaints from the public as far as 'My father, my spouse, they're taking their entire retirement check and spending it in location A on these poker machines'," said Bill Hollingsed, Police Chief for Waynesville.

However, not everyone is happy with some stating that the ban is just a way for the state to reinforce its own monopoly on gambling.

"It appears to me that our state legislators want everyone to buy either a lottery ticket or go to Harrah's," said Tom Morgan, President for the Mountain Energy chain of convenience stores.

"I assume that some vendor out there somewhere will come up with some kind of sweepstakes game that operates within the law."


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