Thursday, December 24, 2009

North Carolina HC upholds video poker ban

Court upholds video poker ban
Hickory Daily Record December 23, 2009

By Sarah Newell Williamson, Hickory Daily Record, N.C.

Dec. 23-- NEWTON -- Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman said he is happy to hear the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld a state law banning video poker machines.

"They couldn't go any other way, based on the law," Huffman said.

The N.C. Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Tuesday that video poker machines can only be operated by the Cherokee Indians at their Smoky Mountains casino.

The case came before the Court of Appeals after a Superior Court judge sided with a gaming company and could have legalized video poker machines throughout the state.

If the Cherokee Indians no longer had exclusive video poker rights, "the tribe would no longer have preferential gaming rights, but instead would be in competition with other gaming enterprises," Judge Robert C. Hunter wrote for himself and Judges Martha Geer and Linda Stephens.

Huffman said he was glad the ruling was unanimous.

"They don't have the recourse of an appeal," he said. "They can only ask the Supreme Court to hear it, and it would be unlikely that they would."

Video poker has long had a tarnished image in North Carolina. Sheriff's throughout the state have regularly complained about video poker machines that are used illegally.

Huffman said there are some businesses in Catawba County that he knows of that operate video poker machines. He said the businesses will have until the end of the year to get rid of them.

"We'll make sure the folks are notified," Huffman said. "Our officers will be on patrol the next week, looking for them. The first week of January, we'll hit them."

He said if the businesses don't remove their machines, sheriff's deputies will confiscate them.

Huffman said he and the sheriffs from Burke and Caldwell counties, John McDevitt and Alan Jones, had planned a bust last week on video poker machines under the previous state law. The bust was hampered by the weather.

"I'm glad this passed, because it gave us more strength," he said. "All the sheriffs are glad this happened."

Huffman said the supporters of video poker who hoped the Court of Appeals would rule in their favor were "grasping at straws."

For the businesses in Catawba County that have video poker machines, he has a warning.

"If they don't remove them, we'll help them," Huffman said. "The ruling came down, and we're going to come down, too."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

To see more of the Hickory Daily Record or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.hickoryrecord.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, Hickory Daily Record, N.C.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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