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Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell Plans to Modify South Carolina Gaming Laws

On March 8th, 2009, a proposal allowing social gaming and gaming-themed fundraising event has been introduced by a South Carolina legislative leader who says that it none of the government's business if acquaintances want to gather and play cards. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, a Republican from Charleston, said that South Carolina's centuries old anti gaming laws desperately need a change. But even with the support of the influential Judiciary Committee chairman, the bill faces immense odds in the Legislature. South Carolina's 207 year old gaming law bans any game that uses card games or dice.

Read literally, it would include board games like Monopoly and Sorry. The executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, John Pappas said that they applaud McConnell's efforts. While state laws regarding gaming vary, most states exempt social gaming. Pappas added that South Carolina is one of the few states that do not allow people to play poker even in their own homes. Just last month, 5 of 20 poker players apprehended in a 2006 raid on a home in Mount Pleasant were found guilty of illegal gaming, even though a municipal court judge agreed with the argument of the players that Texas Holdem is a game of skill, not luck.

The five men were ordered to pay a $262 fine for the misdemeanor tickets and the men have said that they will appeal their convictions. McConnell's proposal states that gaming in private homes, where there are no odds and the house does not earn some profit, is legal social gaming. It also permits churches and other charitable organizations to hold fundraisers as long as the do not include slot machines, video machine gaming and sports wagering. In Charleston, police officers stopped a casino-theme fundraiser for the Addlestone Hebrew Academy.

Senator Wes Hayes stated that while he understands McConnell's plans and agrees some anti gaming laws are outdated, he fears consequences such as those that led to the spread of video poker. He added that he would rather have old laws than permit any inroads for gaming supporters. Other bills designed to change the antiquated anti gaming laws have failed.

Two years ago, former Representative Wallace Scarborough, a Republican from James Island, introduced a bill that will allow kitchen table poker, prompted by the Mount Pleasant raid. Without any debate, the House Judiciary Committee sent it back to a legislative committee last April, killing the bill's chances. Aside from that, a measure allowing charitable organization to hold raffles died in the Senate. The only raffle allowed in the state of South Carolina is the state's lottery. The anti gaming laws of South Carolina blocks all forms of lotteries, dice and card games.

Several proposals introduced in the House last allow nonprofit raffles and McConnell said that he plans to address that issue too. He added that changing the state's anti gaming laws would need a public vote in 2010 to change the state constitution.


04/06/2009 19:55 PM