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‘Fish arcade’ software companies file injunction against sheriff’s office

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Despite an injunction was filed by two software companies that created programs used at some Rowan County “fish arcades,” the sheriff’s office says its will proceed with plans to shut down the businesses down.

Deputy Chief David Ramsey said some of the nearly 30 identified “fish arcade” businesses, named for the fish-type games played, have closed, but there are still a number that remain open. Two weeks ago, the sheriff’s office issued a letter to fish arcades, which it says qualify as illegal gambling establishments. The businesses were given until Jan. 20 to shut down or face arrest, seizure of equipment and profits.

After the letters were sent to an initial 22 locations, Ramsey said, the sheriff’s office was notified by the public about at least eight more.

The sheriff’s office says it considers a ruling last year in the N.C. Court of Appeals against sweepstakes games enough to classify the businesses as illegal. Despite the influence of skills or dexterity in the games, the court said, the sweepstakes games violated state law. Ramsey said local businesses have been given ample time to shut down and that the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office “refuses to wait on the final outcome of this injunction,” which acts as a restraining order against the sheriff’s office. He said the sheriff’s office plans to proceed with its investigation.

“We’re confident in our position and are going forward with investigation, prosecution, whatever it takes,” Ramsey said.

A local judge requested the terms of the injunction be heard elsewhere in North Carolina.

The complaint was filed Tuesday on behalf of software companies operating in six local fish arcades — CMBS LLC, doing business as Fish Game Kings, and NLG Software LLC, which requested a permanent injunction.

The companies say they create, vend and maintain software at the following businesses: 4 Aces Arcade, located at 3610 Mooresville Road; Fish Arcade, located at 1040 Freeland Drive; Aces Arcade, located at 2092 Statesville Blvd.; Lucky Duck, located at 1012 Mooresville Road; Tilley’s Internet 7, located at 1390 Pump Station Road, Kannapolis; and Ridge Arcade, located at 1404 North Ridge Ave., Kannapolis.

The companies say the sheriff’s office has not stated why it believes the software violates either of the sweepstakes or gambling statute laws or what can be done to comply with the sweepstakes gambling laws. The injunction cites a lawsuit filed by Southern Pines businessman Richard Frye, owner of gaming company Sandhills Amusements who sued the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and the state in 2013 after the law enforcement agency began seizing gaming machines in that county. The injunction also said the type of software provided has been tested and certified by experts in the field of electronic gaming and certified as a game of skill.

In the last several years, the state legislature passed laws that banned the establishments, citing that they were considered a form of gambling. As laws changed, so did the way the games were played, evolving from “games of chance” to “games of skill.”

In its court complaint, the software companies say patrons at the businesses purchase Youbux gift cards on Youbux.com as well as clothes and other store apparel which allows them the opportunity to play multiple games of skill or earn more gaming credits or buy more credits on the website.

Patrons buy Youbux at a kiosk or point of sale. They can buy items from the website in store or request to play a particular “skill-based game” in the store. If a patron spends $40 on Youbux, they can receive 4,000 points to play on one of the machines.

Included in the injunction are certifications and opinions from experts in the gaming field who certify that the games in these businesses are “games of skill” and not chance.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office says the establishments are a “hotbed of illegal activities,” including robberies and assaults, some of which go unreported to law enforcement.

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