The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History’s annual Casino Royale fundraiser just became a Concert Royale fundraising, now that the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) division put the kibosh on the event.
The ALE informed Matt Edwards, museum executive director, the Sept. 17 gathering would not be able to go forward as planned because it runs afoul of state law.
Keep in mind, there’s no actual gambling going on at the event. Those paying to attend use play money when they hit the blackjack table, roulette wheel, or play other casino-style games.
According to the ALE’s interpretation of state law, that doesn’t matter. The mere possession of such gaming equipment is illegal in North Carolina.
Not that the ALE does any sort of proactive enforcement. This would have been the fifth-annual rendition of the Casino Royale for the museum, and the law hasn’t changed since the first one.
The museum is hardly unique in its use of the Casino Royale theme for a social get-together and fundraiser. Non-profits all across the state use this very type of gathering and entertainment as major fundraisers.
They’re not hard to find — a simple Internet search turns up dozens of such fundraisers, from relatively small operations such as the local museum all the way up to the Carolina Hurricanes’ Kids N Community Foundation doing them as fundraisers.
But, according to Edwards, ALE officials communicated to him they more or less only look into cases that are brought to their attention. Meaning, someone told on the Museum, forcing the ALE to act.
We find it disconcerting that a state agency would intentionally avoid enforcing a state law. In the space of five minutes we found dozens of organizations across North Carolina violating this law. We even found for-profit companies providing the service, firms with offices right here in the state — and it would seem those are the folks really violating the law, if it’s illegal to own and operate the gaming tables and equipment.
If the ALE’s interpretation of state code is, in fact, correct, then we would like to know why the agency is selectively enforcing it, essentially waiting for members of the public to tattletale on offenders?
We also find the entire law ridiculous. There was a bill introduced into the state House of Representatives in 2012 to specifically allow for non-profits to hold casino nights as fundraisers. That measure, House Bill 1188, was introduced by Democrat Bill Owens of Elizabeth City and co-sponsored by two other Democrats, Susi Hamilton of Wilmington and Michael Wray of Gaston.
In a Republican-controlled General Assembly, we have to wonder if politics played a needless role in this bill, which stood to benefit non-profits all across the state.
The bill actually passed the House on first reading, but then was referred to a subcommittee of the judiciary committee, from which it never emerged, according to the Assembly’s website.
This is a bill that should be revived, and passed, by the General Assembly. We hope our own representatives to that body, Mount Airy’s Rep. Sarah Stevens and State Sen. Shirley Randleman, will remember this in the next session of the legislature and do what’s right.
Until then, we also hope the ALE officials will get off their collective duffs and enforce this law fairly and uniformly. Our guess is, if a couple of fundraisers put on by organizations with enough clout in Raleigh are killed, this law will be changed quickly.
Fundraiser still on
It’s a big change, but Edwards said Saturday can still be a night filled with big fun for those who attend. An open bar, a social hour and a silent auction begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner. The band Risee will begin to play at about 8 p.m., and all activities should wrap up around 11 p.m.
The $6,000 draw-down is also still on, though ALE officials told Edwards that would have to be moved to another room where alcohol is not being served.