RALEIGH: 3 indicted on charges of operating illegal sweepstakes - WFLA News Channel 8

3 indicted on charges of operating illegal sweepstakes

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Arken Elchicheri Arken Elchicheri
Waheeda Ammeri Waheeda Ammeri
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A Wake County grand jury indicted three people Tuesday on charges of operating illegal sweepstakes machines.

Waheeda Ammeri, Chi Hun Kim and Arken Elhicheri were indicted on charges that they "unlawfully and willfully did operate an Internet sweepstakes, a game(s) of chance at which money was bet."

Ammeri and Elhicheri turned themselves in Jan. 9.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Kim operates Treasures Sweepstakes, located at 3689 New Bern Avenue, while Ammeri and Elhicheri operate Lucky 22, located at 7440 Louisburg Road.

Kim called WNCN Wednesday to say he no longer owned Treasures Sweepstakes and sold the business in November 2012. Kim, who said he lives in Georgia, said he has not received an official indictment.

He is listed as the active "agent" on the Secretary of State's corporation documents.

Both Treasures Sweepstakes and Lucky 22 were still open and operational Wednesday afternoon.

Over the last year sweepstakes cafes have been shut down by police, and their owners and employees have been charged with violating a ban upheld by the state Supreme Court.

North Carolina lawmakers first passed a ban on video poker and all other electronic gambling in 2006. The industry quickly adapted, introducing new sweepstakes games they said complied with the law.

Lawmakers responded with new legislation in 2008 and 2010 making it unlawful to possess game terminals that simulate slot machines or are used for the display of electronic sweepstakes. The makers of sweepstakes software then sued the state, saying the ban violated their Constitutional free speech rights. The resulting court fight dragged on two years, culminating in the December 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding the ban.

After the ruling, law enforcement agencies began raiding cafes, seizing computers and making arrests.

But sweepstakes owners protested, asking lawmakers to look at new software that reveals the winners in advance, a move they say keeps them in compliance with the law.

With most sweepstakes operations, patrons buy Internet time that gives them the opportunity to uncover potential cash and prizes with mouse clicks on a computer screen.

To play at the cafes, customers get prepaid cards and then go to a computer to play "sweepstakes." Winners go back to a cashier with their cards and cash out.

The pre-reveal system software allows participants to find out if they've won before they play the game.

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