Council still mulling sweepstakes regulations

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 05:21 PM

It may be superfluous, but a proposal to regulate Internet sweepstakes establishments has sparked some disagreement among the High Point City Council.
A judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to keep authorities from enforcing a ban on sweepstakes businesses, which could lead to their closure on the grounds that they amount to gambling.
On the same day, the council debated a measure that would define a sweepstakes operation under the city ordinance and restrict them from locating in the Uptowne, Washington Street and Southside districts.
The City Project requested text amendments to the zoning ordinance which would restrict sweepstakes businesses by zoning them the same way as tattoo parlors, body piercing establishments and sexually oriented business. They would be permitted only in the city’s General Business district — generally outside the borders of the three areas the organization is trying to revitalize.
Existing operations, if they’re allowed to continue in spite of the state ban, could stay where they are in the city.
“I think the state is finding it hard to drive a stake through sweepstakes operations. This may or may not mean they get to operate again,” said Councilman Jay Wagner, who also serves as City Project vice chairman. “We felt like sweepstakes operations in these three areas don’t meet the vision of the Core City Plan for how these areas should develop — the types of businesses that would foster a walkable, pedestrian-friendly sort of retail and dining destination.”
Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall said she’s seen no evidence that sweepstakes businesses generate crime or other problems, and the regulations would apply disproportionately to Ward 3, which she represents.
“It tends to imply that the people who might wish to go there would not want to eat in a restaurant or walk or shop or anything else, which I have a problem with. I also understand that there was some discussion about these not being family-friendly oriented businesses. Neither are bars, and there are certainly a lot of bars in this same area,” she said. “I really don’t think there’s any reason to say they would be a hindrance to development of businesses. Frankly, on N. Main Street, there are some businesses I’m not sure I would go in, and they have nothing to do with sweepstakes.”
The council discussed whether cigarette smoke or other byproducts of sweepstakes businesses could be harmful to adjoining establishments. Some said there appears to be no public-safety justification for the regulations.
“I just don’t think you zone for moral reasons,” Mendenhall said.
Wagner responded, “We do that all the time. We tell people where they can have strip clubs. We tell people where they can have bars.”
Nevertheless, he said the City Project isn’t making a moral or public-safety argument against the businesses.
“Each time one of these entities goes in, it’s a missed opportunity to recruit a restaurant or a shop or something that is going to further the vision we have for that area,” Wagner said.
The council took no action on the proposal and elected to discuss it further at an upcoming briefing.