Council eases restriction on sweepstakes parlors

Jan. 16, 2013 @ 05:57 PM

Sweepstakes parlors can move in near vocational schools if no children are among the regular student body there.

In a move illustrating the city’s continued support of Internet cafés, the Henderson City Council on Monday passed an ordinance changing the rules so the sweepstakes parlors would be less restricted.

The move by the council comes at a time of controversy for the parlors that city leaders said is unfortunate. Not all council members agreed with the sentiment in favor of the sweepstakes games.

City Attorney John H. Zollicoffer Jr. said that sweepstakes games continue because of ongoing doubt on matters of law.

“It’s not a done deal that they’re closing yet,” Zollicoffer said. “They seem to always be able to find another loophole to operate under.”

Erris Dunston, the planning director for Henderson, said that city planning board members gave their unanimous recommendation to let the parlors move to within 700 feet of adult schools.

The ordinance restricted them from schools in general, with the thought being that there could be an unwanted exposure to children.

“No children would be at issue,” Dunston said. “The wording is now very specific.”

Councilman James Kearney said he could not support the new ordinance because of the harm of gambling that the sweepstakes games represent.

“I believe the very essence of these gaming facilities is to be gambling,” Kearney said. “They prey upon the poor.”

Councilwoman Sara Coffey agreed in principle with Kearney’s opposition to the parlors, but voted for the ordinance change, saying that the regulation question was not relevant to the gambling issue specifically.

Former State Representative Jim Crawford asked for the ordinance change as owner of a shopping center property where several Internet cafés and adult vocational schooling operations are located on West Andrews Avenue.

A public hearing on the ordinance question drew no comments from the general public.

Other restrictions on the sweepstakes parlors is that they can not locate to within 700 feet of each other or an existing church. Churches and schools with children are not restricted from moving to within 700 feet of a sweepstakes parlor.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com