Our last little fun: Watching North Carolina’s sweepstakes industry die | North Carolina | Indy Week
Pin It

Our last little fun: Watching North Carolina’s sweepstakes industry die 

A white neon sign with a red "24/7" was the first indication that a sweepstakes was opening in my neighborhood. Soon, a green light bent into a shamrock was placed in the window of a once-dead retail space between a gas station and a dry cleaner. It was on: Our new local casino had plugged in gambling machines under the premise of selling phone cards. Sweepstakes were sprouting in strip malls all around Wilmington, with signs that offered business services and Internet time where the market had not previously demanded them. Most residents passed these new businesses without knowing what they were, but a few knew their true purpose. It was these people who came inside to play video games of chance.

I first entered the sweepstakes on a cold night in March 2010, when my housemate Geilda and I were walking home from downtown. We'd been at a party, interacting with people like us—mostly white folks, young and creative, poor in a way we assumed was temporary. We rang the bell to be let in (the sweepstakes kept its doors locked at all times), and once inside, our conversation stopped. It was 3 a.m., and a few silent women sat facing Pot-O-Gold machines. The childish noises of video keno dominated the room, creating a soundtrack of hope and disappointment. The desk worker who programmed my $5 onto a machine spoke softly, as if to avoid disturbing a room full of sleepers.

Geilda and I shared a machine and starting playing a game we didn't understand. But the choices were simple enough—cash out or bet—and we went through a few rounds of lights and noises before our total spun $3 higher than where we'd begun.

"Cash out," Geilda advised, and we did.

I came home feeling like I had escaped something that I didn't understand.

Months went by and I kept visiting the sweepstakes. One summer afternoon, I went during daylight hours, before most people were off work. People seemed more alert than usual; two players even looked up and acknowledged me when I joined them at their cluster of machines.

I had $10 programmed on my machine. This was an increase from my original $5 limit, which I justified by reasoning that I needed more time to experience the game. I selected my numbers and adjusted my bet. The woman beside me, short-haired with cargo shorts and a tan that suggested a career in landscaping, told me the machines didn't really pay out until you put in $80 or so.

I bet slowly so that the $10 would last longer. I got up by a few dollars and my machine made a thrilling, cartoon-fast counting sound. I cashed out. The man next to me voiced his support. "That's good—your money still means something to you. After a while, it won't."

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in North Carolina



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

I'm on disability and can afford 400 to 500 a month but I have no down payment or credit would …

by crazygirl4753 on Abandoned mobile homes plague North Carolina (North Carolina)

if the line at a bar was long could a male also without risk of exposure also duck into the …

by sthomper on North Carolina Tried to Defend HB 2 in Federal Court. It Didn’t Go Well. (North Carolina)

HB does that stand for "House Bathroom 2" …

by sthomper on North Carolina Tried to Defend HB 2 in Federal Court. It Didn’t Go Well. (North Carolina)

good on the judge, the n.carolina leader needs to be removed and put in some mental instatute, eigther way he …

by Stefi Davis on North Carolina Tried to Defend HB 2 in Federal Court. It Didn’t Go Well. (North Carolina)

Same here in Hurt Virginia there's trailers no ones living in which could be fixer uppers

by Elaine Wright on Abandoned mobile homes plague North Carolina (North Carolina)

Comments

I'm on disability and can afford 400 to 500 a month but I have no down payment or credit would …

by crazygirl4753 on Abandoned mobile homes plague North Carolina (North Carolina)

if the line at a bar was long could a male also without risk of exposure also duck into the …

by sthomper on North Carolina Tried to Defend HB 2 in Federal Court. It Didn’t Go Well. (North Carolina)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation