CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The first day of a statewide ban on video sweepstakes machines has parlors across the Charlotte area closed, while owners, employees and customers wonder if, how and when they'll reopen.
One sweepstakes parlor owner says his plan to be open 24 hours a day has been replaced by being closed indefinitely. He's waiting to see what state lawmakers do in regards to the ban as well as hear from his attorney for advice before deciding what's next.
Some employees say the ban means they're likely out of a job, at least temporarily.
Last month, the state Supreme Court denied a request from the sweepstakes industry to delay an earlier decision that sweepstakes parlors are gambling operations. As a result, the ban went into effect Thursday.
DiShane Tuttle plays video sweepstakes machines at Business Plus on Albemarle Road.
"[I like] the camaraderie as far as meeting other people, winning money," he said.
People stopped by only to find the lights off and the door locked.
Other parlors across Charlotte looked the same, with doors locked and parking lots empty.
"Why close it down when you got people working," Tuttle said.
Spinners Sweepstakes on Tyvola Road has five employees. The owner says all have been told to hold tight while he figures out if and how they can reopen.
At Heel Sew Quik Shoe Repair, owner Sally Johnson hopes the next step is state lawmakers finding some way to let people play.
"Because if they don't, we'll have to implement better security here to keep our business safe," Johnson said.
Johnson added having Business Plus next door, with its security and video cameras, means she hasn't been robbed since the parlor opened. Before that, burglars hit the store twice in five years. Her husband used to sleep in the store to protect it.
"We don't even worry about it," Johnson said.
Owners and players describe the video machines as entertainment with the opportunity to win money and compare it to people playing the education lottery.
Tuttle has seen people win big and lose big.
"It depends how they are playing," he said.
Johnson doesn't play, but would like to see the ban lifted and the state regulate sweepstakes machines and parlors.
"People are going to find a way to gamble," she said.
If it's next to her, she's benefitting. People who win green at the sweepstakes parlor walk a few yards down the sidewalk and come into her store for brown and black leather.
"People say I can afford to get shoes fixed. I just won money at the gambling place," Johnson said. "I've talked to a lot of people who come out of there and say ‘I just won $500.’"
A sweepstakes customer says she's seen the downside to video sweepstakes machines at the same location, when her friend lost an entire paycheck, then asked to borrow money.
That customer also says she has watched people argue over machines.
Some counties have notified sweepstakes parlors about the ban and told them they need to close, and say deputies will come back if they don't.
Some parlor owners said law enforcement contacted them about specific sweepstakes machines, saying they had to get rid of them by the end of the month or face potential criminal charges.