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Moratorium proposed on Wilmington sweepstakes cafes


You've probably seen them cropping up all over town: internet sweepstakes cafes. A Wilmington city councilman is trying to put a temporary ban on the businesses and possibly create restrictions on where and when they can operate.

If you drive down Oleander Drive, it's hard to miss the giant sign advertising a chance to hit the jackpot for Oleander Internet Cafe.

"We got our merchant's license," co-owner Steven Novello said. "We did everything the way that we're supposed to. So we're all about trying to make it so that everybody's happy."

But at least one city councilman is hoping for tighter regulations on the fast growing business.

"We've got too many of these gaming establishments coming in," city councilman Ron Sparks said. "They're called sweepstakes parlors, but in truth, they're just the same old video poker machines that we outlawed years ago."

Video poker has been illegal in North Carolina since 2006. Today there are more than 20 internet sweepstakes cafes in Wilmington. According to councilman Sparks, 15 more are hoping to be licensed within city limits. Sparks is sponsoring a moratorium on sweepstakes cafes in Wilmington to review whether the operations need more regulation.

"Everything from limiting how close they can be to a church, to a school, by limiting what zoning districts they can be in. Now, they can be anywhere," Sparks said.

At the heart of the issue is whether many of these all night establishments attract an unsavory clientele.

"Its not good when you have that kind of operation going 24 hours a day because other elements in this community can find this as a focus for other activities," Sparks said.

"I mean we have people that are in their 70s down to their 20s that come in," Novello, who's business is open until 2 a.m. said. "We have good people here."

The resolution will be presented to city council Tuesday. It's an attempt for the city to review possible changes to current zoning laws. It's a conversation at least one owner welcomes.

"We sit down with the city council and we get on the same side," Novello said. "There's a lot of positive that can come out of these businesses."

Council will review the resolution tomorrow and will hold a public hearing at its next meeting to discuss the issue before any action is taken.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Sweepstakes Morality...

Before stating anything I feel it is important to know "the source" of this comment. I am currently employed by Triple Seven (777) Sweepstakes (next to Radio Shack) located at 5214 Market Street in Wilmington, North Carolina.

I moved to this area in 2000 after obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Film and Telecommunications with a minor in Sociology to work in the film industry. For nine years I have had the pleasure of working with companies such as Warner Brothers, Disney, Columbia Pictures, Lifetime, VH1, MTV, etc...

Recently, due to some bad restrictions in the North Carolina legislature's film incentive bill, I was practically driven out of my career. Although some of us are still working in the film industry...there just isn't enough work to go around.

As the economy worsens, the struggle has become more and more difficult.

As most of you know, a "job" is not something that is easy to come by right now and a "career" is even harder!

Just recently, I was asked to some part-time work at Triple 777 Sweepstakes. Due to the recent news coverage on such establishments, I was hesitant. What would people think of me? Isn't this a "seedy" operation? Do I want to be surrounded by such people?

To be honest, I can understand how some people can imaging what it is like to be inside a Sweepstakes center. Perhaps you can blame me and my chosen this vision! Unfortunately, film, television and the press give us all "ideas" about such establishments. Until I had gone in to one to see for myself, I felt like Sweepstakes centers might be "shady" or "seedy" too.

Recently, I have been doing a great deal of research on "public opinion" on these establishments. Of course, I can not speak for all of them and, like any business, there are sure to be some "bad apples" in the bunch.

I have heard it all. Sweepstakes centers attract a "bad crowd." People say they are havens for drug dealers, criminal types, child molesters, etc... People also say that the government must protect people (from themselves) and stop these establishments from taking money away from the impoverished and those without self control.

After hearing all made me think a little! So, I began to use my college degree in Sociology and analyze who REALLY frequents this establishment. In striking up conversations with the customers they were very open with me. I asked them what they did for a living...why they like sweepstakes centers...etc.

So, at about eight o'clock in the evening one night I examined a cross-section of REGULAR customers.

Some ages are approximate as I didn't want to seem rude.

(2) school teachers (elementary grades)(40's)

(1) Vietnam veteran (58)

(3) hotel workers (30's - 50's)

(1) real estate agent (25)

(1) insurance salesman(40+)

(3) retired female church friends (70+)

(1) car salesman (50+)

(1) "big box" store salesman (30+)

(1) film casting director (40+)

When I discussed with these customers what it was that brought them in...the responses were all generally the same. Here is a hybrid of the general responses...

"Well, I like to play the North Carolina State Lottery...and I like buying scratch-off tickets at the gas stations. I figure if I am going to spend my money anyway...this is a little more fun. I can bring $10 dollars in here and play for hours...or...scratch off a ticket or check a powerball number and it's all over."

Of course, I haven't mentioned the fact that many of these people enjoy getting to know those around them and enjoy the complimentary sodas and snacks.

Now, at this point, it should be more than obvious that these are not "seedy" or "shady" types. These are ordinary, hard working people who are well educated and have a little extra money that they, as Americans, have the right to use as they please.

As for the payouts...they are good. I am not saying everyone leaves with more than they came in with...but some do every day! Once again, we are regulated and can not change the odds...but I can't attest to the honesty of all sweepstakes centers.

Don't make the mistake I almost did and let others make up your mind for you on this subject.

The media can build up or destroy just about anything. Use your own eyes and judgment to make decisions.

I am not sure about the other centers in town, but we were FOR the moratorium that was passed. Why? Because we run a clean and honest establishment and believe that all sweepstakes centers should be operated this way.

People have a right to their opinions on any subject. Their feelings are indeed important. However, if they are feeling with no basis in fact or evidence...they may be false. Please visit a sweepstakes center even if you have no intention of playing. Come inside, ask the manager the "hard questions" and see what the answers are.

If you are afraid of being attacked by a wild pack of bingo playing grandmothers...then bring a friend for protection. LOL

Thanks for your time and attention

Could you tell us Who you

Could you tell us Who you are regulated by, and how would I know that walking into your business? Is there a sign or a certificate? What would I look for in another Sweepstakes business to make sure they were as legit as you are?

Thank you.



Of course you get it back honey

Here's my favorite ignorant line from you--COULD SOMEBODY TELL ME ABOUT THE ENTERNET TIME -- yea, the ENTERNET. Hey, I'm on the ENTERNET rat now.

No, no; this line is the best--TRYING TO WIN AN MAKE SOME EXTRA MONEY. Make money? you need a job to make money, moron.

Oh, and the all caps, the first sign of ignorance; thanks for the tip. The 2nd sign of ignorance is people who use AN for and; did I mention the moronics of it all?

not so fast!

For six months I've worked at a local sweepstakes cafe. This job has given me consistent income throughout the dreadful inconsistent "off-season" months of our coastal tourist economy. Without this job, Lord only knows where I would have found the income I needed to make ends meet.

Most of our customers are well mannered folks who play the games for fun! Yes, there are some irresponsible folks who may come in and play when they shouldn't, but they are grown adults who are expected and capable for making these decisions on their own. In fact, I joked with a customer today, telling her to,"Run out when she gets ahead" and her reply was that she likes to come in and play in a relaxed environment to get away from her stressful home life.

Most people who oppose the cafes probably never stepped foot in one. I was one of the naysayers until I was hired, stepped into one for the first time and realized what it's all about. To my surprise, most of the patrons are pleasant and friendly!

My personal opinion rests on neither side. It's out of my control. But if I my opinion mattered, I would say that they are harmless, but need to be regulated and taxed so they don't crop up on every street in every town. If anyone's to blame, it's the business owners who are trying to make a quick buck!


Wow.. Look at all the internet cafe junkies and employees on here trying to justify and defend their slums..
Its easy.. Get a life and if you really want to gamble that badly... It would be MUCH cheaper to buy a computer and blow away your paychecks and savings in your own home... There are thousands of ligitimate gambling sites that would love to take your money just as the local slums do...
The fact that you are trying to defend an internet cafe, established for the purpose of gambling, is completely absurd.

Here are the odds in winning based on the algorithim for a single, 52 card "online" deck of cards... (If you aren't good at Math, it says you are gonna loose, just sayin...)
So based on accurate math, if you spend 5 coins, one of thiose coins (er.. I mean credits) may win you a single credit back..
Spend $1.23, get $0.25 .. Wow... That is such a good deal...
The win below is per coin bet, not counting the additional 5-coin fee. The return column is the product of the win, probability, and 0.5. The reason for multiplying by 0.5 is the player must bet two units but is paid based on the one only.

Game Pays Probability Return
Royal flush 800 0.000068 0.027035
Straight flush 50 0.000287 0.007176
Four of a kind 25 0.006986 0.087329
Full house 8 0.035094 0.140377
Flush 5 0.022170 0.055426
Straight 4 0.020390 0.040781
Three of a kind 3 0.153812 0.230718
Two pair 2 0.264755 0.264755
Jacks or better 1 0.276658 0.138329
Nothing 0 0.219778 0
Total 1 0.991927

To break in down layman style....

Who will win? The obvious answer is, more people will win nothing, than will win something.. But that answers the lottery question for those who buy three $1 lottery tickets a week and blow (on average) $150 a year (Thhe average return on that is $6 with PowerBall)
It means you threw away money people...
The odds are ALWAYS in the houses favor.. I would say, do the math... But its already been done below....

Hand Conventional Turbo
Royal flush 1 in 40177 1 in 14796
Straight flush 1 in 9289 1 in 3484
Four of a kind 1 in 423 1 in 143
Full house 1 in 87 1 in 28
Flush 1 in 92 1 in 45
Straight 1 in 89 1 in 49
Three of a kind 1 in 13 1 in 7
Two pair 1 in 7.7 1 in 3.8
Jacks or better 1 in 4.6 1 in 3.6
Nothing 1 in 1.8 1 in 4.6


You can't base the odds of winning on a 52 card deck. The percentage of winning is based on whatever the machines payout is set to!
So you googling odds of cards has nothing to do with peoples winnings and "real" odds!
True, there are a lot of seedy places not doing things the way they should be done or looking out for the customer. There's plenty of places that are looking out for their own pockets and could care less what the law is or for helping the community.
I can speak for 777 Sweepstakes because I am the manager and make sure that things are done to the law and to make our customers happy.
For people to say, oh you're standing up for the so called slum that owns the place, lets talk about employees of the NC "education" Lottery! So should they not have jobs because they sell tickets to people that you that seems to know better than they do? So no one should have a job in the bar business just because YOU don't like it? If the state says it's legal and it's helping the economy and putting food on families tables, then who are you to knock it? No one is twisting anyones arm to play! We do NOT have low lifes playing in our establishment, stop by and see for yourself before you go knocking EVERY sweepstakes place.
We do not make you scan your fingerprint in order to play, we do not have you sit in dim lighted areas and breathe in thick smoke, we are a clean establishment and well lit.
We also have the highest payouts in town and we don't rip anyone off or have dummy jackpots that can't be hit! We do NOT have rigged drawings or anything of that nature.
I personally invite you to come to 777 SweepstakeS located at 5214 Market street next to Chopstix and Radio Shack.

So you've...

never done anything that you enjoy? Ever buy anything that will never give you a "return"? I would imagine you have "thrown" away money on items that interest you that others may think is stupid. Let's shut down Belk's because you know you should pay the gas bill rather than spend it on those new clothes. Some folks like to gamble just for the fun of it but there is that chance they might get lucky sometimes. Big f'n deal...

I would think it fair to say that most of the monies spent on anything we enjoy is "blown" money. Personally I think life would be rather dull if every dime I made had to go to a necessity. What right do you or anybody else have to tell people what they should do in a case like this?

Now I suspect some people would claim that the evil gambling takes food out of the mouths of their children. Could be true in some cases but I bet they would find another way to blow their money if not this way. It would also be true that alcohol would have the same result in some cases.

What really torques me off is that since "The State" didn't bless it then it is questionable. Bunch of hypocrites, liers and thieves! If they were getting a big cut then you wouldn't hear much about it.

**For the record I can't argue the numbers. But I suspect you could argue numbers to outlaw automobiles because of deaths as well.**

Its Simple

Gambling of any type brings a specific clientelle to our area, that many residents do not want.
If you wish to gamble on the internet, get internet, buy a computer, and do it in your own home.

I won't go to any other business any where neara gambling facility, I mean, internet cafe and most of the people I know, wouldn't either...
It devalues our city.'ve got to be kidding me...

You people are such idiots, we need this money....every penny we get helps. You morons that say they wont go to a business that is anywhere near a gambling establishment, u must lead some boring lives since there is no where for you to go....and along with your groceries, where do you buy your gas?????

So where do you buy groceries?

Food Lion, Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods all sell Lottery tickets.

Is that GOOD gambling?

Gambling Houses breed

Approximately 1% of the U.S. adults (3 million) meet criteria for pathological gambling. (National Council on Problem Gambling)

Another 2-3% have less significant, but still serious problems with their gambling and are known as problem gamblers. (National Council on Problem Gambling)

Pathological and Problem Gamblers are much more likely than others to have problems with drinking, drugs and smoking, and to suffer from depression. (National Council on Problem Gambling)

There is also a strong link between suicide and pathological gambling. (National Council on Problem Gambling)

Enough said----gambling "houses" not only bring shady characters but make others depressed and suicidal!!

There is a HUGE difference between one that picks up a lottery ticket at a store than a gambling "house" where people spend HOURS loosing their paychecks or unemployment checks that should be feeding their families.


Gambling "houses" do not make people depressed and suicidal, depressed and suicidal people gravitate towards 'get rich quick' schemes like gambling houses. Depression is the problem, not what depressed people do. Attack the problem at its core.

Take a look at the statistics for alcohol, also legal.

It is immensely hypocritical for ANY government entity to complain about gambling while the state sells lottery tickets. Before the lottery they called it "running the numbers game," and arrested people for it. Now, the state does it and it's WONDERFUL!

Since you're so convinced that (in as many words) the lottery is GOOD gambling, spend some time hanging around any of the "da historic hood" sellers, or spend a day at any of the establishments in Columbus, Bladen or Sampson County when the lottery pot gets big. You'll see people wearing ragged clothing dropping hundreds of dollars on lottery tickets. I see it all the time! I wait five minutes to pay for a bottled water while granny blows half her Social Security check on Powerball tickets and scratch-offs.

No prohibition of any type works, but if you want an exercise in futility and truly want to get rid of gambling, the state should lead by example and dump the lottery.

Until that happens, I say let casinos open up and put slots in the bars. Like WilmMAJ said, if you can't handle it, it's YOUR problem.


Everything you wrote is the responsibility of an individual person, not businesses. If you gamble and can't handle it...its YOUR fault. Not the responsibility of the government to step in and say let's close down Vegas. Just like drinking, drugs, etc... take responsibility for your own actions and stop hiding behind so-called "disease." Malaria is a disease...gambling is a choice!

Gambling is gambling

Novello said. "There's a lot of positive that can come out of these businesses."

Really?? What positive thing does a gambling house bring to a community??

These sweepstake places attract the same people that buy lottery tickets...always hoping to make it rich when they should be spending money on buying their baby diapers and formula.

As for the nice elderly people---are they spending their SS checks there??--probably!!

Internet cafes

Who cares what people spend their money on, It's THEIR money to spend and no one has the right to question them. What about lottery tickets? Shouldn't we ban those from being sold. As you say GAMBLING IS GAMBLING. Oh and for the best thing yet. Why don't we ban BINGO parlours also. This has always been a burr in my side for a years now. Bingo IS A GAME OF CHANCE, exactly what any gambling is. Why has this not been banned? Anybody know? Because bingo has always been profitable for the churches. I remember when this same thing was debated many years and the churches were the only establishments that could "Legally" have bingo parlours. This was debated and they came to the same conclussion as I. The church bingo was not any worse or better than other establishments. And to glorydaze. Have you ever thrown a penny in a wishing well? This is gambling. You are betting that this act will bring your wishes true. What happens if a relative or friend happens to win $10,000,000 and offers you some money. Do you take it our not? My guess is you would. But remember, this money was won from gambling so it is ill gotten money!!! Get a grip!


If they pay there taxes and did everything right, it's flat out wrong to shut down a business or put a moratorium just because some people think it's wrong for whatever reason. Get over it...

Who cares if it's next to a church or school...if the bible thumpers don't want to go in they don't have to!

Oh no...

You gotta pay to play around here.....


The state doesn't like any competition to their lottery. Just like how they keep a tight grip on liquor sales.