City hits dead end on petition policy for internet gaming busine - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

City hits dead end on petition policy for internet gaming businesses

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City leaders are trying to figure out the next step in a petition process for internet gaming establishments. City leaders are trying to figure out the next step in a petition process for internet gaming establishments.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – From voluntary annexation to highway widening, Wilmington City Council members will have their hands full at its next meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

A number of different topics were addressed and discussed at Monday's agenda briefing.

Council members received a presentation on the future of regulating internet gambling within the city limits.

According to city staff, thirteen sweepstakes cafes are operating in the area. They said only one is in compliance with city zoning regulations.

Back in August 2010, the city set an amortization period that gave business owners and property owners about 24 months to comply with the zoning regulations. A line was also added that allowed them to petition for an extension.

In July 2012, a letter was sent to owners notifying them the time had passed and it was time to comply. The city then received five petitions for extensions. However, the city currently does not have a process in place to determine who can get an extension and who cannot.  The city is currently exploring creating a system to determine who can get that extension.

City staff has suggested looking into the financial analysis of each business and examining the number of machines an establishment has and its corresponding revenue and costs to operate.

Some council members support the idea, while others feel like it is an invasion of privacy.

"I think we are overstepping," said Councilman Charlie Rivenbark.  "I say that's not any of our business what they do or their revenue and expenses."

A number of cities and towns, including Wilmington, are holding off on any major decisions because there are a number of court cases being heard at the state level regarding the legality of the internet gaming businesses.

A number of issues have been brought up regarding how legal it is to tax machines and businesses. They are still pending in the NC court system.

The city of Wilmington was also supposed to create code enforcement officer position months ago to help regulate the establishments.  The position was to be funded with the privilege tax on the businesses, but that has not happened yet.

City leaders said that money that has been collected is sitting in an escrow account. There are still a number of businesses that have not paid the taxes owed to the city.

They said they are holding off on filling that position until the courts decide on the pending cases.

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