City public hearing scheduled Jan. 14

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 04:52 PM

Henderson leaders are moving forward with steps to better accommodate electronic sweepstakes operations, also called Internet cafés, even though a state ban on them draws near.

The city served notice on Monday that a public hearing of the Henderson City Council is scheduled for 6 p.m., Jan. 14, at City Hall to receive public comment on proposed rule adjustments that would allow the sweepstakes to take place near adult schools.

The new ordinance provisions received a nod from Henderson planners a month ago, recommending that the operations be allowed to move to areas near schools where there are no child students involved.

The state of North Carolina, following a court ruling on laws to ban the operations as a form of gambling, is preparing to begin enforcement of a sweepstakes shut-down on Thursday.

City council members commenting on Monday said they anticipate the ordinance rules to receive a lively hearing regardless of what takes place with laws at the state level.

“I think that will be an interesting meeting,” Councilman Vernon Brown said. “We would not be in violation of state laws at all” to have the ordinance changes.

Councilman Michael Rainey concurred, saying the city ordinances would remain in place for whenever the situation with the state is cleared up for the games to continue.

“I don’t think the state laws will impact whether or not we would allow them near adult schools,” Rainey said. “I don’t think they would pose a problem if allowed near the adult schools.”

Rainey added that he hoped the games would not be shut down, at least, not permanently.

“If the state outlaws them, then we will lose a lot of revenue,” Rainey said. “I don’t think the (sweepstakes parlors) enhance or deter any sort of crime.”

Councilwoman Brenda Peace-Jenkins said she also is not aware of the parlors creating any additional crime problem, but that people should have a sense of caution if attending them.

“I believe people should use their own sense of judgment whether or not to utilize them,” she said. “There are some people who should not play, and some play the lottery games as well who should not.”

Assistant City Manager Frank Frazier said he believes the council will include the state situation in their discussions on the ordinance, and citizen comments might include that as a concern.

“I am sure that the state laws will be discussed,” he said. “It would be an impact to us to lose that revenue.”

The Henderson Planning Board voted on Dec. 3 to recommend that the council allow the electronic gaming operations to move near professional training schools that cater only to adult learners.

Making the request for the change was state Rep. Jim Crawford Jr., owner of Crawprop LLC and Crossroads Shopping Center where one of the sweepstakes parlors is located.

City staff advised that restrictions against the gambling-style gaming operations would remain in place in all instances of schools with child-age students.

Other ordinance restrictions include not locating to within 750 feet of each other and not moving to within 750 feet of a church or school for children.

Schools and churches are not restricted from where they move in relation to sweepstakes gaming operations, so they are sometimes found near them. The ordinance rules only apply to when the gaming operations move.

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