The establishment of a state lottery in North Carolina will have no legal effect on video poker games in North Carolina, at least not immediately.
However, some who would like to see video poker banned altogether won't rule out using the lottery as one means of curtailing the use of the video games.
Gov. Mike Easley even mentioned last fall at a press conference called to discuss the startup of the lottery that the state-sponsored gambling games could lead to an end of video poker.
"The governor has said before that he believes the lottery will do away with the video poker industry," said Sherri Johnson, Easley's press secretary. "But, it will be up to the General Assembly regarding legislation on the matter."
The N.C. Lottery Commission does not believe it has any authority to require that retailers applying to sell lottery tickets take video-poker machines off their premises.
"They really determined that the commission does not have statutory authority to even address it," said Pam Walker, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Education Lottery. "If there are any changes, then the Legislature would have to do that."
Walker said she didn't know what would happen if the General Assembly took up the issue.
State Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, has tried unsuccessfully to outlaw video poker in the state. He said that while he would like to see a statewide ban, he'd consider a ban at lottery retail outlets a step in the right direction.
"Anything we could do to curtail it or diminish it, certainly we could do that," Albertson said. "I'd certainly be happy with that, but I'd be happier to see it banned from the state."
In the past, Albertson has gotten the state Senate to go along with a statewide video poker ban, except for the Cherokee Indian casino. But, the House has chosen not to go along with an all-out ban, opting instead to support tighter regulation of the games.
House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, has blocked proposals to ban video poker, saying it would put North Carolinians out of jobs.
"We could look at this issue, but I think we would have to keep in mind that anything we do that affects the video poker industry might hurt jobs," Black said. "I have always been consistent that my position on the video poker industry is about jobs."
Bill Brooks, president of the N.C. Family Policy Council, which opposes gambling, agrees with Albertson that it would be better to ban video poker completely.
"Video poker is one of these activities that provides no tangible benefits," Brooks said. "Just get rid of them. It's not going to hurt people to get rid of gambling, not having gambling in their society."
But some retailers want to continue having video poker machines on site while selling lottery tickets.
Walker said that some retailers have inquired about whether they can continue to operate video-poker machines if they become lottery outlets.
For now, at least, they can.