N’hamp adopts internet cafe moratorium

Published 8:33 am Tuesday, May 4, 2010

JACKSON — A moratorium on internet cafes will continue in Northampton County until the North Carolina General Assembly makes their move to regulate the establishments.

On Monday, the Northampton County adopted a moratorium ordinance in a 4-1 vote. In their last meeting, the commissioners agreed to place a 15-30 day moratorium on permits for the businesses.

Upon the request of the board, County Attorney Charles Vaughan presented a moratorium ordinance that places a hold on permitting new internet cafes in the county as well the expansion of current establishments.

The moratorium is effective “until the Northampton County Planning Board, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners and the North Carolina General Assembly have had the opportunity to study the impact and legality of electronic gaming establishments and to amend the Northampton County Zoning Ordinance so as to regulate electronic gaming establishments.”

The county currently has one internet cafe located near the U.S. 158/258 intersection at the Northampton/Hertford County line near Murfreesboro.

Rich Square also has an internet cafe within its city limits, making the town responsible for regulation.

Commissioner Virginia Spruill was concerned with the county’s towns following a moratorium route as well.

“I think the towns are going to welcome this,” responded Commission Chairwoman Fannie Greene.

“They target cities and towns because that’s where they are going to get the most participation,” said Spruill.

Greene asked if there was any way to regulate the already existing internet cafes after regulations are adopted.

Vaughan said there was not and those establishments would be “grandfathered” in.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins added what exists continues to exist.

Spruill asked if placing additional machines in an internet cafe would be considered expansion.

“I believe it would,” said Vaughan.

Jenkins recommended the board wait to regulate internet cafes until the General Assembly addresses the issue.

Commission Vice Chair James Hester motioned to adopt the moratorium ordinance and invite the county’s municipalities to participate. Spruill seconded the motion. The motion passed in a 4-1 vote with Chester Deloatch voicing objection.

The ordinance will have to come back before the board for a second reading after receiving opposition the first time around.

Those participating at sweepstakes cafes purchase time on computers and win credits in the online sweepstakes that are then transferred back into cash. Prizes are paid to winners based on predetermined sweepstakes systems.