North Carolina: Appeals Court rules fish tables are ‘games of chance’

August 4, 2023
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The decision marks the end of a lengthy battle between local law enforcement and two electronic sweepstakes companies.

Recent court battles regarding electronic sweepstakes in North Carolina recently ended in a loss for two Catawba County gaming companies, according to a local report in NC Newsline.

However, state lawmakers continue to discuss the possibility of extending casino gambling beyond locations that are owned by the state’s Tribes.

Several laws limiting and eventually banning video poker and electronic sweepstakes have been on the books for more than 20 years. Gaming companies in North Carolina have since adjusted rules and software that would make these machines compliant with state law.

The debate has surrounded the issue of whether these games can be classified as games of skill versus games of chance. In the case of “fish tables,” which are games that give players a chance to shoot images of swimming fish on video screen, some have argued that these are games of skill.

For the last several years, local law enforcement has cracked down on businesses that offer fish tables, which caused Fun Arcade and Barracuda Ventures to file appeals in Catawba County court.

The Appeals Court’s recent decision addressed the continued use of a fish table called Ocean Fish King, a fish shooting game that uses a joystick. Each shot fired equals placing one wager.

The court ruled in favor of two police chiefs in Hickory and Conover, citing that Ocean Fish King “is mostly a game of chance, and that the businesses violated the law against operating sweepstakes machines and similar games.”

The court partially based its decision on a 2022 Supreme Court decision, which also ruled against sweepstakes-related companies, the local report said.


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