Gov. Nikki Haley Says She Will “Happily” Sign New Illegal Gambling Machines Bill
On Thursday, March 21st, a bill that redefined sweepstakes machines as illegal gambling devices passed the house. In February, the Senate voted to approve the bill. Now, as the bill makes its way to the governor’s desk, Nikki Haley has said, per her spokesman Rob Godfrey, that she will happily sign the illegal gambling machine bill into law.
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.
Now that the bill has passed both the Senate and the House, it only awaits the governor’s signature.
Godfrey says Haley believes South Carolina should not settle for such gambling because “our great state has too much going for it to sink to that level.”
Video Poker and Illegal Gambling Machine Controversy in South Carolina
South Carolina began cracking down on wide-spread video poker operations in 1999, when lawmakers passed a bill that defined all video poker and some sweepstakes machines as illegal gambling. For a few years, gambling operations disappeared. However, some operators found a loophole in the law, which allowed for a boom in sweepstakes machines.
Sweepstakes machines sell small items, like phone cards, which in itself is not gambling. However, when a customer purchases an item from a sweepstakes machine, they also have a chance to win prizes at the machine.
Legally, sweepstakes machines fell into a grey area – police could raid establishments that operated sweepstakes machines, but a county judge would have to formally decide whether or not the machines fell within video poker laws and were therefore illegal gambling devices. More often than not, judges would agree with law enforcement, but occasionally there were disputes.
The new law specifically states that sweepstakes machines are illegal gambling devices.
Opponents of the bill say that sweepstakes machines are not the same as video poker machines, and are actually more like perfectly legal sweepstakes offerings like McDonald’s Monopoly sweepstakes. They also point out that the state of South Carolina currently runs a lottery, which specifically raises money for education. If sweepstakes machines become illegal, then the state will have a monopoly on gambling.
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.
Despite worries about corruption, South Carolina lawmakers seem almost unanimously in favor of getting rid of sweepstakes 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.