>A bright yellow sign announcing the opening of a Sweepstakes business will have to be moth-balled till the legislature visits the issue. Kingstree Town Council turned down the owner's request for a license citing an opinion by the attorney general that regards such businesses as illegal. Photos by Michaele Duke
Manning resident Joseph Lutz was on the verge of receiving a license for his Internet Sweepstakes business in Kingstree when an opinion by Attorney General Alan Wilson put an end to his request. Lutz is the owner of several Internet Sweepstakes businesses in other states and was in hopes of opening one in Kingstree. He presented his request to Town Council during its October 15, meeting.
Lutz said his business is not a gambling house; rather it is a promotion of the Internet and argued that the law, which is up in the air, has made it confusing for everyone. "They've tossed the law up in the air," said Lutz of the Attorney General's recent opinion that sweepstakes cafes are illegal even thought a bill (H. 4675) to seal a loophole in the law on gambling that allows sweepstakes games at food stores and fast food restaurants (the same loophole being used by Internet Sweepstakes cafe operators) has not been voted on. "You don't know which way to go. They pretty well letting which County wants to do what - make their own decision on it."
Internet sweepstakes cafes sell Internet access. The buyer can then use the loaded card to play computer games for cash prizes of they so choose. Lutz maintains it is no more illegal than the "reveal" games pieces attached to the side of fast-food cups.
Several counties in the state have allowed Internet Sweepstakes outlets or sweepstakes parlors to setup shop and some even charge a fee per machine. However, many communities have stopped issuing business license for such operations pending settlement over its legality. That was the basis for Council's decision. "The Attorney General has issued an opinion that it is against the law and that is the position we have taken with law enforcement and administration here in Kingstree," said Town Manager Dan Wells. "So we don't issue a business license for those because we believe that its against the law."
It is anticipated that the state legislature will revisit the issue in 2013. In the meantime, law enforcement across the state continues to shut down some cafes and not others, depending on how the law is interpreted.
In other business, the Felician Sisters of St. Ann were presented a plaque in recognition for their outreach efforts. The Sisters received national recognition in September when they were awarded the Catholic Extension's Lumen Christi Award.
In addition, two employees from the Street Department were recognized for their efforts. Supervisor James Tisdale was presented a plaque and a monetary gift for his suggestion to construct an access to the water department and Willie James Tisdale received a plaque and a monetary gift for his part in catching a pair of would-be metal thieves. James Tisdale was also part of the metal theft pursuit, which would have Town Manager Dan Wells praising both men for their efforts. "They didn't have to go that extra mile to do that," said Wells. "It just shows that - it's just as easy to drive by that and say, "I didn't see it"...The leadership from James down to Willie is just all evident. So we're proud of Willie and James and his crew and all the staff."
Council's next regular meeting is scheduled for December 3, taking into account Thanksgiving and to accommodate a councilmember who would not be available during the regularly scheduled November meeting.