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Ask 13: Why are gaming machines still allowed in local gas stations?

"I would like to know why local gas stations are still allowed to carry gaming machines?" Mike Shuffler wrote to Ask 13. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Internet sweepstakes or video gaming machines have been a target of North Carolina law enforcement for years. Despite laws that put the brakes on video gaming, it seems some of those games are back.

State lawmakers banned video poker and video gaming machines in 2006. Since then, it's been what some describe as a game of whack-a-mole, with game manufacturers either successfully fighting the laws or making equipment changes to legally skirt them.

"I would like to know why local gas stations are still allowed to carry gaming machines?" Mike Shuffler wrote to Ask 13.

News 13 has reported many video gaming busts over the years, the most famous of which swept up former Sheriff Bobby Medford. He was convicted on charges related to taking bribes from illegal video poker operators.

Since then, the state has cracked down numerous times as gaming machine operators altered their methods by using sweepstakes and the internet to get around the law.

Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan said law enforcement has been forced to take a break from this ongoing battle since the courts have recently come down on the side of video game operators.

"It's extremely confusing for a lot of people to understand because the video gaming laws have been all over the board for the past several years," Duncan explained. "We thought that the North Carolina Supreme Court had settled all that a couple years ago by saying that they were all illegal. But because of this particular, this Gift Surplus machine, the way they are supposed to be operating it gets them around the law."

The court decision came from a judge in Onslow County just a few weeks ago. It placed a restraining order against law enforcement, banning officers from enforcing any laws against the sweepstakes or Gift Surplus gaming machines.

That restraining order recently attached Buncombe County, so the sheriff said law enforcement has no legal means to stop the video gaming until this case plays out through the courts.

If you have a question you'd like answered, write to Ask13@WLOS.com.

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