Sweepstakes business Biz Center gambles that it's legal

Feb. 02, 2013 @ 10:14 AM

One sweepstakes parlor in Lenoir remains open despite a state ban on video sweepstakes machines.

The machines being played at Biz Center on Morganton Boulevard use software designed by an Oklahoma company called International Internet Technologies LLC and B&J Daniels Inc., doing business as Hickory Tree Business Center. A Superior Court judge in Davidson County issued a temporary restraining order this week blocking police from stopping sweepstakes parlors using this software. The company had modified its software to comply with the law.

In December the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a state ban on video sweepstakes machines, and the law banning the games went into effect Jan. 3. Lenoir Police Chief Scott Brown said that all 15 parlors in Lenoir other than Biz Center have complied with the state ban and voluntarily ceased operation of its sweepstakes machines.

“We had 100 percent volunteer compliance until Biz Center re-opened,” Brown said. “I believe people want to do the right thing. For two and a half years, it was completely legal. When the law changed, they complied. In my professional opinion, the software is irrelevant.”

Sweepstakes parlor customers generally buy phone or Internet time and try to uncover potential prizes on a computer. With IIT machines, customers click a “reveal” button to instantly see whether they have won a prize, according to the court’s findings. Judge Robert Johnson of Davidson Superior Court ruled that it appears to comply with the law because no games or game simulations are played. Another hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday.

Biz Center owner John Frank Myers, who had closed because of the ban but re-opened after the restraining order was issued, makes a distinction between his machines and his competition. He compared playing his machines to buying a scratch-off lottery ticket.

“When you walk into a convenience store and purchase a ticket, it’s (payoff is) already pre-determined,” Myers said. “When you walk into my cafe, I sell you a product -- Internet time. You can get a free daily entry, go to the sweepstakes side, where it’s already pre-determined what you win. When (ITT) downloads my software into the server, it’s already pre-determined.

“The competition has come up with systems that they can control. That becomes gambling. We are the only company (in Lenoir) that does not affiliate with video poker.”