About 500 computer terminals, some of them packaged to look similar to slot machines, are up and running in an isolated area along the Calhoun County, Etowah County border. They are purported to be electronic sweepstakes games. But, given the state's history with gambling, lots of people are watching them with great interest.
"These games are legal," said Jack Draper, attorney for National Promotions. Customers can buy a gift card that will allow them to bid on an online auction website called winandbid.com. "You are given sweepstakes entries represented by a code," said Draper.
Players enter the code on a touch screen to find out if they are a winner. Draper insists the flashing, spinning wheels on the sweepstakes machines are just for show--marketing. That is a similar claim made by electronic bingo casino operators before state government forced them to close. Slot machines are illegal in Alabama.
Calhoun County district attorney Brian McVeigh said his office, the sheriff and the state's attorney general are monitoring the operation at the White Oaks Sports Complex. "They are trying to maneuver around the law," said McVeigh. He claims authorities are trying to determine if the games are illegal gambling machines or if the operation is defrauding customers.
"If it's not gambling, if you've got people believing they are gambling and they're not, possibly you're defrauding your customers," said McVeigh.
None the less, National Promotions is already exploring expansion in other parts of the county and state.