Maggie to loosen sweepstake machine regulations

The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen will vote this week whether to relax restrictions on sweepstakes machines for businesses that plan to make their money mostly from the controversial mechanisms.

If the ordinance passes as is, sweepstake-specific businesses can have one machine per every 50 square feet. Video sweepstakes parlors will be required to be at least 1,500 feet away from each other and any established religious institution, school, daycare, library, museum and public park, and the gaming-specific business must also be housed in a building that is a minimum of 2,500 square feet.

Other businesses such as bars or gas stations that only have a few machines will still be limited to one machine per 1,000 square feet.

Fees for operating will remain the same — with a $2,500 fee for the first four machines and $750 for any additional machine.

The town doesn’t expect a proliferation of sweepstakes parlors under the laxer restrictions. Given the distances required from parks, churches and other existing uses, there in essence are only a few places that would accommodate sweepstakes parlors under the new ordinance, said Town Planner Nathan Clark.

The state legislature has battled the controversial machines for years. They outlaw specific video gambling machines, but new reincarnations pop up and are deemed legal by the courts. “Dealing with the cyber sweepstakes people is like playing ‘Whack a Mole.’ Every time something about the machines is banned, the sweepstake folks come up with a slightly different version of the game to get around the law,” said state Rep. Ray Rapp, who co-sponsored a bill banning such machines in 2010.

The courts have since overruled the bill; however, the state Supreme Court will take up the issue in September.

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