Internet sweepstakes creates unfair playground, said Horry County casino boat manager

01/03/2013 10:38 PM

01/04/2013 12:12 PM

A bill going before the state senate’s full judiciary committee that could close a loophole in South Carolina’s gambling laws concerning internet sweepstakes may be too little too late for Robert Weisberg, general manager for SunCruz Casino of Little River.

Weisberg said SunCruz Casino got a raw deal after they were sued by Horry County in November 2011 for not paying upwards of $500,000 in per-passenger fees. The lawsuit is still pending, and the exact amount the county could be awarded, if the judge rules in its favor, has not been determined.

Weisberg said he has 200 employees working legal jobs while there are thousands of internet sweepstakes parlors all across the state. He added the attorney general and the director of the State Law Enforcement Division would get extra funding to shut them down.

“None of that has happened so far, specifically in Horry County,” Weisberg said.

He contends SunCruz’s contract with the county, which calls for a $7 per passenger surcharge, doesn’t make sense in light of internet sweepstakes parlors operating along the Grand Strand and across the state. SunCruz conducts a “cruise to nowhere,” as passengers are taken beyond the seaward territorial boundaries of Horry County and S.C. for gambling purposes.

“It’s a total, callous disregard of the facts. It’s almost like they shut their eyes to this,” Weisberg said.

Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokeswoman, said via email the county does not permit sweepstakes businesses.

As for seizures, Thom Berry, spokesman for SLED, said their last major operation in July 2012 netted approximately 300 video gaming machines from multiple locations in Horry and Georgetown counties.

Berry said those machines remain locked up as evidence.

In the late summer, an Horry County judge ordered 24 video gaming machines to be destroyed after they were seized from a Little River business in June 2011.

The ruling was the Figure Eight Sweepstakes Games were illegal and should be destroyed. They were seized from Wine and Time at 82 Cloverleaf Drive, located off S.C. 9.

South Carolina banned video poker in 2000, and it’s been challenged several times, with the makers of the machines saying these video sweepstakes machines aren’t the same as video poker.

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