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South Carolina Senator Introduces Bill to Allow Private Poker Games

South Carolina Senator Introduces Bill to Allow Private Poker Games 0001

A South Carolina legislator has introduced a new bill to legalize social gambling and gambling-themed fundraisers, thereby reversing the state's two-plus century old law against such activities. Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) has introduced the bill to allow for gambling in private homes when there is no house profit, as well as to allow churches and other non-profit organizations to hold "casino night"-style fundraisers that do not involve slot machines, video gambling, or sports betting.

In introducing the bill, Sen. McConnell referred to the state's 207-year-old anti-gambling law that bans "any game with cards or dice," a law which, if taken literally, would outlaw board games such as Monopoly. Sen. McConnell, who chairs the state senate's Judiciary Committee, believes the government should not be in the business of preventing a group of friends from gathering around kitchen tables to play cards. He also added that updating the law would give charities a "much-needed tool for fundraising" during a period when the recession has negatively affected donations.

Last Friday, John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, said the PPA lauded McConnell's bill, noting that South Carolina was one of only a few states that currently did not allow "friendly games of poker" to be played in private homes.

The bill comes less than a month after five South Carolina poker players were found guilty of illegal gambling in a Mt. Pleasant court, despite the fact that the municipal judge in the case agreed with the argument that Texas hold'em is in fact a skill-based game. The defendants in the case had participated in a privately-run hold'em tournament with a $20 buy-in. The ruling in that case (reported on here) will be appealed.

Sen. McConnell will likely face a difficult battle to push his bill forward. Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill) referred to the relatively recent struggle over video poker in the state, which underwent an arduous legislative fight before the state finally banned video poker in 2000. "It's a delicate balance," said Hayes, noting that he'd rather have outdated laws than open up the possibility of allowing unwanted forms of gambling to return to the state.

Two years ago, a similar bill to allow private poker games was introduced by former House Rep. Wallace Scarborough (R-James Island) in response to the Mt. Pleasant raid, but that bill never made it out of committee. Other attempts to legalize raffles have failed as well, with the only legal raffle currently allowed in South Carolina being the state-run lottery.

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