SC Senate Moves New Bill to House, Which Defines Controversial Sweepstakes Machines as Illegal Gambling Devices
On Tuesday, February 5th, the South Carolina Senate voted to move their sweepstakes bill – which was passed with a 40-2 majority to redefine the controversial machines as illegal gambling devices – will be passed to the House for a final vote.
The bill was proposed to close a loophole in the 1999 video gambling legislation, which operators of sweepstakes machines have begun to exploit. This created a resurgence in what law enforcement officials perceive to be illegal gambling machines.
Proponents of the bill say that clearing up the legislation will help save communities that are hurt by illegal gambling. They claim that, before the legislation that outlawed video gambling, owners of the machines paid lobbyists, which corrupted local governments and law enforcement.
Opponents of the new bill claim that the services they offer are no different than the Monopoly sweepstakes at McDonald’s. Sweepstakes machines offer small items for purchase, such as phone cards. The purchase offers the customer a chance to win prizes at the machine.
The bill’s opponents also claim that the crackdown will create a state monopoly on gambling – currently, South Carolina runs a lottery to raise money for college scholarships.
Richland and Lexington Counties Already Cracking Down on Illegal Gambling Machines
Because the prior video gambling legislation was unclear, law enforcement had to take machines they seized to a local judge, who would determine if the machines were illegal according to the law. This created conflicting legislation, which hindered local law enforcement.
“It will help clear up any confusion about the public policy so that law enforcement can do its job,” said Pickens Republican Sen. Larry Martin, who championed the legislation.
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel also stated that he hopes the legislation with clarify existing video gambling laws.
Meanwhile, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott stated his intent at the end of January to crack down on illegal gambling machines in his area, although the bill was not law yet. He gave owners of sweepstakes machines 5 days to get rid of the devices, then he would begin his search.
“Let me be clear,” he said in a statement, “as long as it is a crime to gamble, or possess gaming machines, we will prosecute you.”
Thanks to an anonymous tip from Crimestoppers, Lott and his team have already begun to crack down on illegal gambling machines in Richland County. The tip led to the first bust on February 1st.
Lexington County has also seized several illegal gambling devices in recent months. The most recent bust led to seizure of 13 machines.
The Strom Law Firm Prosecutes Operators of Illegal Gambling Machines
Strom Law Firm was one of the first law firms to bring suits against the video poker industry in the late 1990s seeking to recover gambling losses. Since that time, Strom Law Firm has litigated a couple of video poker cases, including a case against a local Columbia restaurant.
With the new influx of video gaming machines, South Carolina citizens face substantial gambling losses, and damage to their families and communities. South Carolina has several laws in place to protect gamblers and their families from the financial ruin that their gambling addiction can cause.
A family or relative may file suit anytime within one year from the time the money is lost gambling. If you or a family member has lost money in video poker within the last year, you may have legal rights, and should contact a lawyer immediately.
The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have experience with illegal gambling cases, as part of state criminal defense. We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. To have a lawyer evaluate your case, please call us at 803.252.4800. Do not let illegal gambling charges ruin your future.