Kannapolis OKs new sweepstakes parlor rules
By Hugh Fisher
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS - The Kannapolis City Council adopted new rules Monday that allow sweepstakes gaming to take place at licensed establishments.
The 6-to-0 vote to change the zoning and permitting ordinances means Kannapolis retail businesses can legally provide sweepstakes games - computer-based games that flourished illegally after the 2007 statewide ban on video poker machines.
Mayor Pro Tem Gene McCombs chaired the meeting. Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer was absent, recovering from surgery.
The new rules generated discussion about how they will affect the community, including a question by Councilman Roger Haas concerning the impact sweepstakes gaming has on low-income and minority customers.
Planning Director Kris Krider said the city doesn't have information on that.
Councilman Darrell Hinnant put forward the idea that there should be a minimum number of machines required per establishment.
"If we're serious about regulating, if we're serious about inspecting ... it sounds like we're going to be spending some money to do that," Hinnant said.
Also, Hinnant said, having a minimum requirement would eliminate "casual" sweepstakes operators and limit the places where such gaming would occur.
But other members said the fees involved - $2,000 for a permit plus $2,500 per machine - would take care of that.
Also, the ordinance limits licensed sweepstakes parlors to the city's General Commercial zoning districts, and requires that they be at least 200 feet from churches and schools.
The previous ordinance, which had been the subject of a court challenge, required a 1,000-foot separation.
One addition was made Monday night to the proposed ordinance that staff members had prepared based on City Council directives and research.
Krider asked the council members to add language that would limit sweepstakes gaming to retail businesses, as opposed to other types.
Members unanimously voted to adopt that amendment.
As for concerns about large numbers of sweepstakes parlors opening citywide, members brought up other factors that would limit the number of businesses the city could sustain.
For instance, Haas said, a business with a larger number of sweepstakes machines would need a minimum number of parking spaces.
And the machines themselves must be leased or purchased, Haas said, at a significant cost.
Other members agreed that the situation would regulate itself.
"I'm of the opinion that we let the free market decide," Councilman Ryan Dayvault said. "...I think I can live with trying this case out."
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.