Sweepstakes parlor owners indicted in Wake County

The two establishments are the first of dozens that will be targeted all across Wake County
January 8, 2014 3:12:56 PM PST
Three men indicted by a grand jury in Wake County are charged with running illegal sweepstakes machines in two different locations.

Both the Lucky 22 on Louisburg Road and the Treasure Sweepstakes on New Bern Avenue are still operating, but investigators hope both will soon be out of business. That will be the case if the Wake County district attorney can make the charges against the business owners stick.

"If the underlying operation is illegal and gambling where you're wagering a little bit of money in hopes of getting a lot of money, then that's illegal.  We're following the Supreme Court's guidelines," said Wake County D.A. Colon Willoughby.

The Supreme Court ruling was handed down more than a year ago, but the D.A. said sweepstakes operators were given written notice and ample time to voluntarily shut down.  

Some did, but many remained open.

The sheriff then began taking a close look at the businesses and compiling information. Late last year, Wake's grand jury told the D.A. there was enough evidence to begin the crackdown.

The two establishments are the first of dozens that will be targeted all across the county, according to Willoughby. He is aware that sweepstakes owners in other counties charged with operating illegal machines have been able to convince judges that they've changed the software on the machine to comply with the law. That's why the charges in these cases are different.

"Folks here are not charged with possession of the machines, but they are charged with operating gambling," Willoughby said.  "We believe that evidence in these cases is very clear and will show that's exactly what folks were doing."

Willoughby said while patrons have not been targeted in the investigation, the owners of any sweepstakes parlor in Wake County could soon find themselves facing a criminal prosection.

"I think that it's likely that we'll see other people being charged," Willoughby said.

ABC11 visited both sweepstakes parlors where owners have been indicted. An employee at Lucky 22 got one of the two owners on the phone, but he refused to speak to reporter Ed Crump.

At Treasure Sweepstakes, an employee said the owner was in New York and could not be reached.

Neither of those employees had any idea that they could soon be out of a job.

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