But Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh says more investigation is needed first. McVeigh said Thursday that prosecutors and law enforcement officials are investigating National Promotions, which opened earlier this month next to the White Oaks Sports Complex near the Silver Lakes Golf Course. The company uses the controversial sweepstakes machines as part of its business.
“It is illegal and we’re going to shut it down, but it’s just a question of when,” McVeigh said. “We’re still gathering facts and making sure everything is legally correct as possible. Gambling is what I think I can prove. If it’s not gambling, the why is the place open 24/7?”
The business has hundreds of the machines, which are basically mounted desktop computers with special software and touch-screens. Attorney Jack Draper, who represents National Promotions, has said the sweepstakes games are merely a way to lure in customers to participate in the company’s main business, which is bidding on products through a website called www.winandbid.com.
Chief Deputy Matt Wade with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office said his agency was investigating the business.
“When that’s complete, we’ll take action,” Wade said. “We’ll get a search warrant, shut it down or do whatever … but we’ll wait until we’ve gotten instruction from the district attorney.”
McVeigh said he wants a thorough investigation to be sure there are no legal issues should the business decide to sue.
“We do not want to put the taxpayers in a position of having to pay for mistakes, so we’re taking our time,” McVeigh said.
Draper has said and reiterated Thursday that he would sue if the business was shut down. His plan is to prove the legality of the sweepstakes machines in court.
“My position remains that this is not gambling and these are not gambling devices,” Draper said. “If they attempt to shut the place down I would have no choice but to sue. I think this is perfectly legal.”
Typical examples of legal sweepstakes include prizes awarded from the backs of cola bottle caps and the McDonalds’ Monopoly game.
However, the state shut down many businesses that used electronic sweepstakes machines similar to National Promotions’ several years ago, stating they violated Alabama’s anti-gambling laws.
Meanwhile, as the investigation continues, several residents living on White Oaks Drive, which leads directly to National Promotions, are concerned about the increased traffic and noise from the business. Resident Lisa Nail said she moved out to the rural Calhoun County area to raise her child in relative quiet and safety.
“Now the traffic on my road is like the Talladega Superspeedway,” Nail said of the traffic to and from the business. “The large majority of them drive way too fast.”
She said residents there now have to pay extra attention to their pets and children due to the traffic.
“I almost got hit coming out of my driveway once,” she said.
Nail added that since the business is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the noise from the traffic can keep her up at night.
“A home is no longer a home when you can’t sleep at night,” Nail said. “It’s not that we don’t want them to enjoy what they are doing, but it’s all a concern for the residents here.”
Nail’s neighbor, Allison Brown, has similar concerns about the business. Brown said the extra traffic is not just a concern for her because of the safety aspect, but because White Oaks Drive, used by the business’ customers, is a private road maintained by the residents there.
“In six months, when that road is worn out from all the traffic, we have to pay for it to be fixed,” Brown said.
Brown said she is also concerned about the many people from across the state who are coming to the business.
“We don’t know these people and we don’t feel safe when our children are out,” she said.
Brown noted that she and her neighbors were supporting law enforcement in investigating the business.
“We’re cooperating with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s investigation, the district attorney and the state attorney general … cooperating with their investigation,” Brown said.