Case Law Update – A Comment on Video Sweepstakes

            Members of the land use bar and city/county planning communities have anxiously awaited the N.C. Supreme Court’s review of Hest Technologies v. State of North Carolina involving what is popularly called video poker or video sweepstakes.  The case was appealed from the Court of Appeals, which found such displays to be protected speech.

             Full and complete disclosure: My law firm has represented and did represent Hest Technologies in this case, although I personally was not involved.  Nor am I my law firm’s spokesman on this matter.  Therefore, I’ll only provide a couple of comments that have nothing to do with the Court’s reasoning.

             If you’ve followed this in the press, video sweepstakes have been targeted for different reasons by citizens who lean both left and right of center.  Those who lean right on social issues (as opposed to rightward on property rights issues) perceive it to be gambling.  Those who lean left see it as an undesirable use which should not be allowed in certain communities or neighborhoods.  To them, it is a zoning and land use issue, and they look to government to ban or limit their allowed locations.

             The statute that was challenged, however, was not a land use statute but a statute which made video sweepstakes a criminal offense.

             The case was authored by Justice Robin Hudson who, by most folks’ assessment, does not lean to the political right.  And whether you lean left or right, most court observers will tell you she’s one of the smartest lawyers to don a judge’s robe in the past few decades. The case is worth reading if only to see how she opened the opinion to set the stage for the Court’s decision.

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