Sweepstakes regulations clear council

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 05:04 PM

If video sweepstakes establishments are able to make a return despite a state ban, they won’t be allowed in certain parts of High Point.
The City Council on Monday adopted text amendments to the zoning ordinance that ban sweepstakes operations from the Uptowne and Washington Street areas.
The council for months debated whether to impose the regulations, which were requested by The City Project, the city-funded nonprofit organization working to revitalize both of these districts and other parts of the core city.
The council approved the amendments 5-4, with council members Jim Davis, Jeff Golden, Britt Moore, Jay Wagner and Mayor Bernita Sims voting in favor. Voting in opposition were council members Foster Douglas, Jason Ewing, Judy Mendenhall and Becky Smothers.
Many sweepstakes establishments have closed in recent weeks as law enforcement has begun enforcing the state ban, which came about on the grounds that the businesses amount to illegal gambling operations. Some locations are reportedly trying to remain in operation by changing the types of machines that patrons use at their businesses so that they’re in compliance with state law.
“There are a couple of them operating in the city right now,” Wagner said.
The City Project argues that sweepstakes are not in keeping with the types of pedestrian-friendly retail and restaurant establishments it’s trying to attract. The new regulations allow them in six types of zoning districts, but prohibit them from the Washington Street Mixed Use Overlay District and a portion of the Main Street District known as Uptowne, between Westwood and State avenues.
Before the state ban took effect, some establishments were in operation on N. Main Street in Uptowne. If they’re allowed to operate under state law, they would not be allowed to re-open in these locations.
If any are currently in operation legally under state law in either district, they can continue as noncomforming uses, according to city officials.
Some raised questions about the fairness of the new regulations, arguing that there appears to be little evidence that sweepstakes establishments hinder development of City Project goals or pose a public safety threat or nuisance.
“It would seem to me if these are not desirable in a portion of the core city, they would not be desirable in any of the core city,” Mendenhall said.
The council considered adding a third City Project focus area — S. Main Street from Taylor to Ward avenues — to the regulations, but did not do so. Wagner said property owners in that area are being asked their views on sweepstakes and whether they want them in that district.
“I think their desire is to wait and see what that survey brings back,” Wagner said.