With the governor’s signature Friday on a bill banning sweepstakes gambling in the state, we hope another chapter in the state’s on-again, off-again relationship with video poker has come to an end. Gambling proponents will no doubt soon search out another loophole in state law to burrow through, but legislators and the governor were wise to stamp out this incarnation before it grew any larger.
Municipalities across the state had struggled through unclear rules regarding sweepstakes for years now, with the state attorney general and most judges ruling them illegal gambling operations but other judges, law enforcement officials – and some lawmakers – disputing that assessment. The confusion left local governments caught in the middle, unsure whether to license and allow the businesses or raid them and destroy their machines.
The bill signed last week should clear up some of that uncertainty, good news for Horry County and Myrtle Beach, both of which have been dealing with sweepstakes issues in recent weeks. Legislators were right not to wait for the courts to hash out this situation.
“It could take another four or five years for the courts to rule,” pointed out Horry County Councilman Marion Foxworth late last year, “and in the meantime local government, local sheriffs, local police departments and local prosecutors are kind of on their own.”
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Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. All of our local legislators, with the exception of Georgetown’s Carl Anderson, supported shutting down sweepstakes gambling, and that’s no small accomplishment. We can still remember a legislature almost taken over by a video poker industry that threw hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns, and it’s not a situation we’ve been aching to return to. Our political system has enough troubles without adding gambling into the mix.
As for the effect on residents, reader Sunny Fry described it well last year on The Sun News’ Opinion Blog:
“The simple fact is that no man is an island, and no action has effects only on the person taking the action. When gambling is corporatized, it’s not gambling – it’s a near certain loss. And anyone who lived through the proliferation of those gaming machines in this state knows a family or three who lost a home, lost a business, lost a marriage, because those machines are designed to make you stop thinking of money as money, and only as a means to keep getting the ‘reward’ feedback of the bells and whistles and thrill when you hit the jackpot.”
The fact remains that organized gambling is an incredibly lucrative business, designed to quickly and efficiently lift vast amounts of money from customers’ pockets and deposit them in the industry’s coffers. As such, legalizing the industry or finding ways to skirt existing law will continue to be a goal of many in the state. Gaming in one form or another will undoubtedly pop back up again. We simply hope our leaders will be ready once more to stamp it back out.