Council eyes sweepstakes regulations

Mar. 01, 2013 @ 05:43 PM

The City Council on Monday may consider new regulations for Internet sweepstakes establishments after months of debate about whether the city should try to restrict the businesses from certain areas.
The council meeting agenda includes proposed text amendments to the city zoning ordinance that would ban new sweepstakes operations from locating in the Uptowne and Washington Street areas.
The City Project wants them kept out of these portions of High Point, where it is focused on revitalization work. The organization claims that sweepstakes clash with the types of pedestrian-friendly retail and restaurant establishments it’s trying to attract.
They would be permitted only in the city’s General Business district, which is primarily outside the borders of these areas. Existing operations, if they’re allowed to continue in spite of a state ban on sweepstakes, could stay where they are in the city.
Many establishments have closed in recent weeks as law enforcement has begun enforcing the ban, which came about on the grounds that sweepstakes amount to illegal gambling operations. Some are 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.
“We’re talking about eight blocks on N. Main Street and two blocks on Washington Street. I don’t think that’s going to destroy the sweepstakes business in High Point,” said Councilman Jay Wagner, who also serves as City Project vice chairman.
It’s unclear whether council will enact the proposed regulations.
Some have expressed concerns that imposing these types of restrictions would amount to singling out a particular type of business with scant evidence that they hinder development of City Project goals or pose a public safety threat or nuisance.
Council members who represent the entire city have raised questions about the proposal.
“From an at-large perspective, it’s hard to defend saying that something is not good enough to have here, but it’s OK in other places,” said at-large council member Becky Smothers.
Britt Moore, the council’s other at-large representative, said, “I don’t want to do anything that is going to hamper the private sector.”
The council has discussed adding a third City Project focus area — S. Main Street from Taylor to Ward avenues — to the proposed regulations, but has not done so to date. Even if it did, and the new restrictions were enacted, sweepstakes could locate in most areas of the city where businesses are allowed.