Sweepstakes parlors popping up years after state passed a law to prohibit them

By: Mark Becker

Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Teddy Pierce has been serving up pizzas at his restaurant on WT Harris Boulevard in east Charlotte for 14 years.

Business is doing well, as is business next door at the video gaming parlor that opened several months ago, along with three others, all within a mile of Pierce’s pizza place.

“They all silently going up too ... it's not just .... they're just popping up,” Pierce said.  

What Pierce and many others can't figure out is how they're popping up, seven years after the state passed a law to prohibit the sweepstakes machines, and just four years after the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's office sent a letter to sweepstakes parlors ordering them to close or face criminal charges. 

In November 2013, and in the months that followed, almost all of the video gaming businesses disappeared. 

But since 2015, those businesses have been quietly opening up in Charlotte and in other communities.

“Oh yes .... they're coming up fast,” said Sgt. Chris Rains, who heads up Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s unit that is tracking the gaming business.

Rain said he estimates there may be close to 100 in Charlotte, mostly in lower-income neighborhoods, but dealing in a high-cash business.

“I've been told that some machines make upwards of $1,200 a day, so you can imagine if they have 20 machines,” Rains said.

 All of that cash has invited trouble.

CMPD has reported several robberies, including a string in April at video gaming sites, and several shootings as well, including one in August where a security guard shot and killed a man police said was attempting to rob the business.

 Eyewitness News visited five of those businesses along South Boulevard, but none would allow our camera into the building, and no one would disclose who owns the businesses.

Police said they cannot close them because a judge in Onslow County has issued a temporary restraining order preventing law enforcement from taking action against the businesses until he rules whether the games are legal, or illegal gambling businesses.

A trial in that case is set for early December and an attorney representing one of the companies suing to keep the businesses open said he could not comment while the case is pending.

Meanwhile, businesses and neighbors, including Pierce, are growing frustrated as they watch the gaming centers springing up.

“It does get in the way,” Pierce said, citing parking and crowds that come with those businesses. “Some people would never leave ... it was just crazy.”

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