The state’s interest is urgent: The General Assembly, when it returns in January, is facing a shortfall of as much as $3.2 billion — about 15 percent of the total budget — and education, which consumes almost half the spending, will take a nuclear hit. We don’t think North Carolina’s residents are prepared for what is about to happen to education as thousands of instructors will leave the classroom for the unemployment line and class sizes will grow.
When state lawmakers banned video poker a few years ago, their poorly disguised intent wasn’t to stop gambling, but was to get people to play the lottery, whose proceeds go to education needs. But then sweepstakes gambling arose, defeating the spirit of the previous ban and requiring new legislation, which took effect on Dec. 1.
But separate court decisions have created ambiguity, and local law enforcement officials are telling The Robesonian that until there is clarity, the new law will not be enforced. We are confident that Robeson County lawmen have plenty of other crime to keep them occupied.
Meanwhile, Internet cafes continue to operate, but for how long?
If the mess isn’t straightened out shortly in the court system, expect the legislators to take quick action when they return to Raleigh, especially since Republicans will be in charge; their objections to gambling will probably be based more on principle and less on propping up the lottery, but the effect will be the same.
Meanwhile, critics of the ban continue to argue that once the ban is effectively enforced, hundreds of Internet cafes across the state will be padlocked, thousands of people will lose their jobs, millions and millions of dollars in tax revenues that the state could have captured will be lost — and sweepstakes gambling will continue out of plain view.
And the critics will be correct.