Legislation intended to update South Carolina's anti-gaming laws is dead for the year. The bills, filed in both the House and Senate by Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, and Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, have been met with big resistance from legislators who say they may inadvertently bring back video poker.
The House kicked back two of Merrill's three bills from the floor to committees in late April. The third never made it out of committee this year.
McConnell's bills have languished on the Senate calendar since last May.
McConnell and Merrill say that the bills wouldn't legalize video poker or any commercial gambling, but update the more than 200-year-old laws that technically make it illegal for churches and nonprofits to hold raffles and families and friends to play Monopoly or any card and dice games, including poker, at home. The issue has been subject to selective enforcement, according to supporters. A Texas Hold 'em game at a Mount Pleasant home was raided in 2006.
McConnell told me this week that he plans to re-file the bills (which include a constitutional amendment and two statute changes) for the next session that begins in January and he wants to hold hearings on the matter. He hopes nonprofits across the state will mobilize support between now and then. The constitutional amendment, if it passes the Legislature, would allow the voters to decide on the ultimate outcome.
If you want to learn more about this issue, check out McConnell's show “This Week in the Senate” on ETV. He had guests Sens. Ray Clearly, R-Murrells Inlet, and David Thomas, R-Fountain Inn, on the show Feb. 4 and Feb. 11 to discuss the issue.
To see the show online, go to http://www.scetv.org/index.php/statehouse/this_week_in_the_senate/2010/