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Still in business: Some sweepstakes sites gambling on new software

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

Promptly at midnight Dec. 1, Internet sweepstakes games at most area establishments were officially stopped in accordance with a new state law that took effect banning the games.

But by this past Monday, some of the businesses are already back in operation after proprietors said they had upgraded their software.

Signs posted on doors of other establishments indicate the closures are just temporary.

Rows of chairs at computer stations were empty Wednesday in two rooms at Cyber Lynk Business Center in Calabash. But by Monday, an employee answering the telephone at the sweepstakes establishment said they were back in business.

“We have the laws here if you want to have a copy,” an employee answering the phone at the Calabash sweepstakes parlor said Monday.

Just last Wednesday, employee Dan Barone said the sweepstakes portion of the business had been suspended, which he indicated was only temporary.

“We’re upgrading our software to correspond with the court order,” Barone said. “As soon as it’s done, we’ll be open.”

He said that could be as early as this week, and he was right.

Tuesday morning, games and its players were back in business at the Beach Drive establishment.

Pot-O-Gold Café and Sweepstakes in the Shallotte Shops complex remained closed Monday, but a sign posted at the business states it will re-open sometime in December.

Just around the corner, Shallotte Business Center on Holden Beach Road also has re-opened.

Sweepstakes games are still suspended at the Chubby Buddha in Ocean Isle Beach. Bartender Nadine Milam said owner Tim Holcombe is trying to figure out what he needs to do to upgrade the establishment’s four machines.

Carolina Shores finance officer Julie Munday, speaking at a town workshop Monday, said as far as she knows Internet sweepstakes businesses within town domain aren’t supposed to be operating.

Town commissioner Joyce Dunn noted “some are open; some are closed. But it’s not our business to close them anyway.”

Last week, Eli Smith, manager of the Brunswick County Employment Security Commission office in Shallotte, said he had not seen anyone from area sweepstakes establishments coming in for unemployment assistance.

He said employees likely were waiting to see how the new law is to be enforced. Already, local law enforcement agencies in the state have been cautioned about how to enforce the law after a Superior Court judge ruled the previous week that the new law is overly broad and infringes on free speech.

“There’s still some undecided things,” Smith said.

Employees may be holding out hoping this week the establishments can re-open, he said.