GREENVILLE, N.C. - For internet sweepstakes cafes across North Carolina, the writing is on the wall, literally.
Closing signs are popping up at these businesses across the east to let customers know they're shutting down.
Last month, the state Supreme Court upheld a 2010 law ruling video sweepstakes machines illegal, calling the cash-prize games as the "functional equivalent of gambling."
The decision gives the cafes until January 3 to comply.
After that, the state Attorney General is leaving it up to individual law enforcement agencies to decide how they want to enforce the law.
Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks says he plans to issue notices to business owners on the third, but he has not yet set a time line for when he will start penalizing them.
The statute says people who go against the law could face charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.
It's a harsh reality for some owners who argue their cafes are not gambling operations, but rather legitimate businesses that provide entertainment.
Financially, the closures mean the loss of thousands of dollars in fees, taxes and special licenses for some cities. Not to mention thousands of people state-wide who will be left without jobs.
And while they're closing for now, most owners are already hatching a plan to side-step the law by tweaking their current software. However, most of the owners could not explicitly describe what changes to software would make the games legal.
Two out-of-state software companies that make most of the games used in these businesses have announced they plan to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. But of course, that process could take months, and there's no guarantee that the court will agree to hear the case.