A Wake judge refuses to delay the law that requires machines to go starting Sunday Matthew Eisley and Jerry Allegood, Staff Writers Video poker, a low-key kind of electronic gambling that attracted bettors to convenience stores, bars and truck stops long before the state launched its lottery, is set to start disappearing this weekend.
That is when a state law will begin forcing owners to unplug their 10,000-odd poker machines over the next nine months. By next summer, there will be no legal machines left in North Carolina.
Machine owners, renters and players have sued to stop the phaseout. The owners and renters say they will unfairly lose a key part of their livelihoods.
But they lost a big round Thursday when a Wake County judge refused to delay the law while the lawsuit goes forward.
"The court finds that [the] plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they are likely to sustain immediate and irreparable harm … or that they are likely to prevail on the merits of the case," Superior Court Judge Narley Cashwell wrote in an order denying the industry’s request for a temporary restraining order.
Another video poker industry lawsuit awaits action in federal court.
Unless a federal judge or the state Court of Appeals intervenes, hundreds of establishments with the current legal maximum of three video poker machines will have to turn one off by Sunday, then another one by March and the last one by July.
Law enforcement officials say video poker causes gambling addiction, is easily rigged for illegal cash payouts and fuels other crimes. The phased ban pleases Attorney General Roy Cooper and many of the state’s sheriffs.
But it makes little sense to gamblers such as retired FedEx truck driver James "J.T." Thomas of Raleigh.
He leaned into the single video poker machine in a corner of the C-Mini Mart on Poole Road for 10 minutes or so Thursday afternoon and blew a few bucks on a money-losing game he enjoys but rarely wins.
"I just like playin’," said Thomas, 60. "It ain’t hurtin’ nobody."
About 20 feet away, an elderly man lost $11 in a minute playing the state’s "Education Lottery." And a middle-aged woman — who plays the lottery with her retirement savings, the store’s operator said — bet and lost again on the random, state-sponsored game of chance. (more…)