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Video Poker Outlawed In South Carolina

Dateline: 10/18/99

Last Thursday the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled to outlaw the state's $2.8 billion video poker industry and declared that all video poker games must be shut down by July 1, 2000. It is the most remarkable defeat for gambling in memory. This summer, the legislature ordered a Nov. 2 referendum to decide the status of video poker once and for all. The court ruled that the state legislature's attempt to allow a referendum was unconstitutional because South Carolina has no referendum right, so the Supreme Court canceled the vote and upheld the ban. The news was reported in The Slate Newspaper on Thursday. Another story appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal on Friday.

Video poker has been a legal form of entertainment in South Carolina since 1975. However, the controversy over it is relatively new. This summer the legislature ordered the November Referendum. On July 2, 1999, Governor Hodges signed House Bill 3834, which would have provided new taxation and regulation of the video gaming industry if the citizens of South Carolina voted to continue to allow video gaming. Many provisions of the new law would have become effective December 1, 1999 with all video game machines being required to be connected to the state's central computer monitoring system prior to February 1, 2000.

Now that the Supreme Court has made it decision it will be interesting to see what the next step will be. Money has been lining up on both sides to fuel the fight.

The "Vote Yes" organization, which raised $1.9 million as of Oct. 1, is the leading pro-poker group, led by the S.C. Coin Operators Association. They feel that the Video Poker Industry is being singled out. They site that there are state-regulated bingo games operated throughout South Carolina, and there is an Indian casino near Rock Hill. Many thousands of dollars are "illegally" bet on golf each day. Newspapers and television stations regularly publish winning lottery numbers from neighboring Georgia, not to mention the point spreads for upcoming sports events or the annual office pools during "March Madness."

I imagine with all the money involved there is going to be some sort of appeal or new legal maneuver in the works. I don't expect the Video Poker operators to go quietly.

I have never played Video Poker in South Carolina but according to reliable sources the games are dismal at best. State law limits the payouts to a maximum $125 per day. This would further decrease the overall payback percentages, which are low in comparison to most other gambling destinations. It's probable that the Supreme Court decision will benefit the unsuspecting players who do not know how to calculate the payout percentage of video poker machines to determine if they are playing inferior games.

Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge stays forever."

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