• 54°

State Supreme Court sees a duck

RALEIGH — The seven justices who sit on the North Carolina Supreme Court seem to have been imbued with amazing powers.
Unlike some of their colleagues among the state judiciary, the seven recently recognized that something that waddles, quacks, wears feathers and sports a bill is usually a duck. And people who lay out money, and then lose that money or win more money based on random choices made playing games, are usually gambling.
Put a collar and leash on the duck, and it still isn’t a dog.
Make your selections with playing cards, using a slot machine or over the Internet, and gambling still isn’t Tiddlywinks.
And like drug use and prostitution, gambling isn’t free speech or free expression. The state can, and historically has, regulated it.
The state’s high court came to that same conclusion the other day when it ruled that laws passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2008 and 2010 to ban video sweepstakes games were not unconstitutional.
The ruling overturned Superior Court and state Court of Appeals decisions that had found the laws banning the games amounted to a violation of free speech rights.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court rejected that notion.
The justices didn’t need to look very hard to find a compelling precedent that had all of the characteristics of the current case.
In 1915, the state Supreme Court rejected a similar attempt to dress up slot machines as something other than gambling. The latest opinion begins by quoting that opinion.
“(N)o sooner is a lottery defined, and the definition applied to a given state of facts, than ingenuity is at work to evolve some scheme of evasion which is within the mischief, but not quite within the letter of the definition,” the 1915 ruling read.
But that ruling, and this one, concludes that the law should look to “the substance and not to the form” to strip the means of the gambling of its “false apparel.”
That wording was apparently lost on the head of an association of Internet sweepstakes operators.
Chase Brooks, an Alamance County Internet sweepstakes business owner, responded to the ruling with the following: “We will look at morphing into whatever we need to be under the rule of law to continue our business.”
Morphing is exactly what the operators did in 2006 when state legislators first banned video poker. It is what they did again, with their claims of buying Internet time and pre-selected winners, to get around the 2008 and 2010 bans.
This latest state Supreme Court ruling says, in no uncertain terms, enough of that.
It now tosses the issue back to the lower courts to put the ruling into effect, to get them to look up from the legal parsing and see that the duck is a duck.
Once that happens, those video sweepstakes café owners who continue keeping their doors open will be lawbreakers.
Law enforcement should treat them accordingly.

Scott Mooneyham writes columns for Capitol Press Association.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Dukeville lead testing results trickle in, more participation needed

Education

Faith Academy interviewing staff, preparing site for fall opening

News

Volunteers work around obstacles, alter procedures to offer free tax services to those in need

Education

Education shoutouts

Local

Retired Marine gets recognition for toy collection efforts

Local

March issue of Salisbury the Magazine is now available

Education

Five get Dunbar School Heritage Scholarships

Education

Education briefs: Salisbury Academy fourth-graders think big as inventors

Education

Bakari Sellers keynote speaker at Livingstone College Founder’s Day program

Nation/World

Biden aims to distribute masks to millions in ‘equity’ push

Nation/World

Chief: Capitol Police were warned of violence before riot

Nation/World

GOP rallies solidly against Democrats’ virus relief package

Nation/World

FDA says single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson prevents severe COVID

High School

Coaches, lawmakers react to governor’s order expanding sporting event capacity

Coronavirus

Three new COVID-19 deaths, positives remain below triple digits

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper announces end to curfew, changes to restrictions affecting bars, high school sports

Crime

Blotter: Two charged after call about package

Crime

Salisbury Police investigating two shootings

Crime

Chase involving Kernersville man ends in woods behind Carson High School

News Main

North Rowan girls end season with playoff loss to Murphy

Education

Rowan-Salisbury EC department plunges in place after raising $1,300 for Special Olympics

Nation/World

Tiger Woods injured in car crash, has surgery on legs

Local

Local stakeholders set goals, direction to tackle city’s housing issues

Education

RSS board talks future of Henderson Independent School