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4 separate sweepstakes companies in Johnson filed suit in court Tuesday difficult a ban on computers they use to reveal customers’ winnings. That ban was passed by the Johnson County Commission earlier this month.
The suit claims the law violates the very first Amendment totally free speech rights of those company owners, also as equal treatment and due process protections below the 14th Amendment. It further asserts the county is effectively improperly interfering in interstate commerce, because the computers accessed games housed on servers outside the state.
“The county is prohibiting a form of entertainment, that is also free speech” said Leroy Varalli, using the Varalli Law Group in Beachcomb, that is representing the businesses. “It’s a very broad ordinance and also the supreme court ruled in June of 2010 that video games have totally free speech protection” Supreme Court
His suit seeks an immediate halt to enforcement in the ordinance. It also seeks to clarify whether steps that have been put into place by the businesses because the ordinance was passed now make the cafes legal, even if the law is flawed, which 4 of the four attorneys we spoke with agreed.
Varalli represents companies that have joined another lawsuit in Tarbor County difficult a similar ordinance enacted there. It is now before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
The latest 43-page, 11-count lawsuit names as defendants Johnson County and also the Sheriff , whose workplace pushed for the ban and is in charge of enforcing the ordinance passed Dec. 1. Attorneys for each stated Tuesday they had not however read the suit and couldn’t comment.
“We type of expected this,” stated Candice Paul, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Workplace.
At the time the law was adopted, the Sheriff’s Workplace stated there had been about 18 in the cafes within the county, and expanding quickly.
Based on the suit, the companies sell phone cards and Web access at competitive rates – three cents a minute for long-distance calls. Prior to passage in the ordinance, clients were given a card that allowed them to access in-house computers by swiping them through a device attached towards the machines.
Buy also gave clients sweepstakes entries. Buy much more minutes, get more entries. While on the computers, users could go to any web site or use software program to access sweepstakes that reveal their prizes via games that simulate slot machines.
Essential distinctions, according to the suit: No buy is essential to obtain sweepstakes entries; customers don’t need to use the machines to locate out if they’ve won and can simply ask an employee; and winnings are predetermined, much the same as pull-tabs on McDonald’s french fries – the pc does nothing to change that.
Johnson’s law specifically outlaws the use of a device, such as a card, to reveal winnings via an additional device, such as a computer. So the businesses that have sued are now giving people access codes. The lawsuit seeks to clarify whether or not that brings them into compliance.
Either way, the suit claims the county law is prohibiting a form of free speech, like a video game. It claims the companies are conducting a legal sweepstakes under Florida law and the county has enacted an ordinance that flies in the face of that law. “What the county has tried to do is prohibit the way clients are informed of how a lot, or if, they’ve won anything in these games,” Varalli said.
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