Lenoir's lone sweepstakes parlor closed

Company providing software leaves NC
Mar. 28, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

An Oklahoma-based company that said its software allowed some sweepstakes parlors, including the Biz Center in Lenoir, to remain open despite a state ban on video sweepstakes machines is leaving North Carolina, saying it is preoccupied with its legal problems in Florida.

After the state Supreme Court in December upheld a state law banning video sweepstakes games, The Biz Center on Morganton Boulevard re-opened in early February after installing the software provided by International Internet Technologies LLC. IIT maintained that its games were still legal because they told users before they play whether they had a chance to win.

IIT had filed suit in January, arguing the legality of its games, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit Feb. 4, paving the way for enforcement of the ban.

Lenoir police, after conferring with the district attorney's office, began plans to shut down the Biz Center, the only parlor out of 15 in the city that re-opened. But before they could take action, the Biz Center closed about two weeks ago. Wednesday, the Biz Center was locked and dark, and all that remained inside were empty cubicles.

IIT sent a letter March 19 to several North Carolina law enforcement agencies saying it would cease operations in North Carolina immediately, but it would take about a week for local operators to "completely wind business down," according to a copy of the letter reviewed Wednesday by The Associated Press.

IIT is owned by Chase and Kristin Burns, who are among 57 people indicted in Florida in relation to a chain of sweepstakes cafes affiliated with Allied Veterans of the World. Prosecutors allege only about 2 percent of the $300 million raised through the charity actually went to help veterans.

The company said in its letter it was "directing its full attention and resources" to its legal problems in Florida and could not provide support for its licensees in North Carolina.

Records show Burns and his wife donated at least $230,000 to North Carolina political campaigns in the past two years, including $55,000 to groups affiliated with the North Carolina Republican Party and cash to more than 60 state lawmakers from both parties. The haul made the Oklahoma couple the largest single donors to North Carolina legislative candidates in 2012.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.