June 23, 2010 (CAP News Wire) – Following up yesterday’s report on Southern American states coping with the surge in Internet gambling via “sweepstakes” and Internet cafes comes the news that the North Carolina Senate has voted to ban this new form of business.

The senate “overwhelmingly approved” the legislation on Monday by “a vote of 47-1” (!), reports the Associated Press (via Bloomberg BusinessWeek). If the legislation is also approved by the North Carolina House, the “hundreds of new businesses” offering online gambling will be closed down immediately.

“North Carolina Senate leaders, sheriffs and Christian groups say the sweepstakes games are an end-run around the state’s 2006 video poker ban,” the report continues. “The number of such locations statewide has soared in recent months to about 600, according to Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, who is shepherding the bill through the Senate.”

The decision was immediately controversial.

“If the lawmakers really want to clean up the video gaming business, then they need to regulate it. We are asking for state oversight,” William Thevaos, president of the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, commented. “We can set aside funds just like the lottery to promote gambling addiction hot lines. We want to be proactive and help those who need help.”

“If you eliminate video sweepstakes, you’re going to eliminate 10,000 jobs,” commented Brad Crone, a lobbyist for the sweepstakes industry, according to the Shelby Star. “The fight is on, there’s no doubt about that.” Crone also said that “regulating and taxing the businesses, instead of banning them, would bring in $400 million a year,” per the article.

Even some who are typically conservative and anti-gambling reject the idea of the ban. “I’m no fan of gambling,” writes commentator John Hood at North Carolina’s Sun Journal. “But I’m also no fan of government officials sticking their noses into other people’s business.”

“Whatever you think of the state’s current public policies on gambling, please don’t be deluded into thinking that government can actually forbid it,” Hood continues. “Again, gambling is literally as old as money. Last night, thousands of North Carolinians gambled their money on Web sites, in private card games, at pool halls, with bets on sporting events, by buying lottery tickets, at the Harrah’s casino on the Cherokee reservation, and in internet-sweepstakes cafes.

“If North Carolina bans the latter, all the other gambling will continue. And the video-poker industry will come up with yet another way to satisfy the manifest consumer demand for casino-style gaming.”

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