Gov. Roy Cooper used his veto stamp this week, imprinting red ink onto HB 511, the “Gaming Nights” bill. This is the seventh bill he has vetoed since taking office in January.
The bill’s long title reads, “An act to authorize nonprofit organizations to operate ‘game nights,’ to provide for the regulation of nonprofit organizations holding ‘game nights,’ to increase the ability of nonprofit organizations to hold fund-raising raffles, and to authorize reissuance of certain one-time alcoholic beverage control commission permits.”
As previously reported May 25 in, “Have a Drink at Gaming Nights?” HB 511 would allow a tax-exempt organization to conduct a game night during which games of chance are played and prizes are awarded by raffle at facilities serving alcoholic beverages. There are conditions attached to the bill.
The nonprofit must have operated continuously in the county for five years. Additionally, the nonprofit must obtain a permit from the State Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) Section or the ALE district office where the qualified facility is located. The application fee is $100 to ALE for each game night event.
The bill limits a nonprofit to no more than four game nights per year and no more than one per quarter. The maximum duration of each game night is five hours. No cash prizes can be awarded at a game night event. Prizes are awarded through a raffle. Participants may exchange chips, markers, or tokens from the game night event for raffle tickets.
Cooper said in his veto message: “I am not opposed to legitimate nonprofits holding an occasional ‘game night’ to help with donations to worthy causes. However, I believe this legislation as written could cause unintended problems. North Carolina law enforcement has fought for years against the for-profit poker industry, and legitimizing charitable gambling in this way could give video poker a new way to infiltrate our communities. Allowing the industry to masquerade as a charity could cause unintended permits to be issued, and without tough criminal penalties enforcement would be difficult.”
The bill sets limits as to the duration of a game night and the number of game nights allowed per quarter/year. It is not clear under these guidelines how the video poker industry could gain a foothold in North Carolina communities.
Also, the requirement that a nonprofit must have been operating continuously in a county for five years seems to address Cooper’s expressed concern that the “industry could masquerade as a charity.” Given the requirements in the bill, the rationale Cooper has given for vetoing this bill is elusive.
Cooper’s seventh veto surpasses the six vetoes that former Gov. Pat McCrory issued in his entire four-year term. Cooper has made a fast start in using his veto stamp during his first six months in office.
The “game nights” bill passed in the House and Senate along party lines. The General Assembly may try to override the veto when it reconvenes August 3.