June 7, 2000
The Honorable R.C. Soles, Jr. North Carolina Senate Room 2022, Legislative Building Raleigh, North Carolina 27601-2808
Dear Senator Soles:
You have asked for the opinion of the Attorney General’s office as to whether video games or video poker machines, the operation of which would be illegal in this state under North Carolina law, may nonetheless be lawfully stored or warehoused in the state. The answer to that question is “no.”
Article 37 of the North Carolina General Statutes treats the subject of illegal slot machines and other gaming or gambling machines in some detail. The particular statute applicable to your question is N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-304, which specifically states that it is unlawful not only to own but also to “store” any “slot machine or device where the user may become entitled to receive any money . . . or any thing of value.” The types of machines that fall under this prohibition, which include the video games or video poker machines you referenced, are spelled out in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-306, which contains the definition of the term “slot machine or device.”1
It is useful to review the full text of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-304 to appreciate the scope of the ban on storage of these machines. The statute reads:
It shall be unlawful to manufacture, own, store, keep, possess, sell, rent, lease, let on
The definition is rather extensive and need not be repeated here in full, but it essentially encompasses within its terms “any machine . . . that is adapted, or may be readily converted into one that is adapted, for use” in the manner associated with a traditional slot machine or similar gambling device. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-306. The statute also contains a number of exceptions designed to ensure that a variety of lawful machines are not swept under the definition of an illegal slot machine. For example, the definition notes that it “does not include coin-operated machines, video games, and devices used for amusement,” including “pinball machines, video games, and other mechanical devices that involve the use of skill or dexterity to make varying scores or tallies and which, in actual operation, limit to eight the number of accumulated credits or replays that may be played at one time and which may award free replays or paper coupons that may be exchanged for prizes or merchandise with a value not exceeding ten dollars ($10.00), but may not be exchanged or converted to money.” Id.
The Honorable R.C. Soles, Jr. Page 2 June 12, 2000
shares, lend or give away, transport, or expose for sale or lease, or to offer to sell, rent, lease, let on shares, lend or give away, or to permit the operation of, or for any person to permit to be placed, maintained, used or kept in any room, space or building owned, leased or occupied by him or under his management or control, any slot machine or device where the user may become entitled to receive any money, credit, allowance, or any thing of value, as defined in G.S. 14-306.
- Gen. Stat. §14-304. The state’s regulation and prohibition of these machines is quite comprehensive and several other statutory sections touch on the issue of the lawfulness of storing such machines. These include N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-295 (keeping illegal punchboards or slot machines), N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-297 (allowing illegal punchboards or slot machines on premises),
- Gen. Stat. § 14-301 (operation and possession of slot machines), and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-305 (agreements with reference to slot machines or devices made unlawful). The definition of illegal machines includes not only operational machines, but machines that “may be readily converted into” machines that would violate the law. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-306.
Violations of these statutes are treated as Class 2 misdemeanors, see e.g. N.C. Gen. Stat. § § 14-309, although this office has advocated that possession of unlawful video poker machines or similar devices be punished as a felony.
At your request, I am also enclosing prior opinions of this office that address the statutes in question.
Very truly yours,
J. Donald Hobart, Jr.
Legal Counsel to the Attorney General