GARNER — Town officials continue to hack away at the arguments of a lawsuit filed against it by a sweepstakes parlor operator in early June who claimed police illegally forced the establishment to close in May.
The town filed a motion to dismiss case, in large part because Kings Sweepstakes remains open and therefore requires no injunctive ruling to remain open. Nil Entertainment, which owns the business, had asserted that police forced the parlors to close in its lawsuit filed May 23, and requested payment for resulting damages.
Town Attorney Bill Anderson said that despite what he regards as a weak case, he doesn’t expect a quick resolution.
“I think it’s going to drag out a while,” Anderson said. “All lawsuits drag out. Lawsuits just take a year, year and a half.”
Nil Entertainment claimed it had been forced to shut down Kings Sweepstakes May 6. It used letters signed by Garner police Chief Brandon Zuidema as evidence that its hand had been forced, and argued that its business did not run afoul of a 2010 anti-sweepstakes law.
The letters warn that the Wake County District Attorney’s office had determined that places like Kings were illegal based on a January state court ruling. Nil Entertainment maintains in the lawsuit that it sells Internet time, and uses the sweepstakes as a promotion. Customers, it says, can choose whether to play, entry is free, and nothing is risked upon playing.
According to attorney Donald Pocock, the software the company uses does not violate the law, and law enforcement agencies in many places have taken an all-or-nothing approach rather than determining whether each business is in violation of the law.
The law explicitly does not require an electronic sweepstakes to collect money to be illegal; only that there is an entertaining reveal on an electronic device. Jurisdictions in the Triangle have taken different approaches to enforcing that law, with some engaging in raids and others not enforcing it at all. The law aims to reduce “vice and dissipation.”
The lawsuit notes that there are different ways to determine whether an entry is a winner at Kings: by asking for validation from the cashier or by revealing the sweepstakes entries at a computer terminal connected to the Frontier System.
Anderson has earlier said he believes the plaintiff wants to get Internet gaming declared legal in civil court, rather than wait for criminal court to continue to sort out the 2010 law’s nuances.
The initial suit filed by Pocock in May requested the town repay $10,000 in privilege license fees, but it was amended a little over a week later before Anderson could file a motion pointing out that no such fees had been paid to the town.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland