New coalition to determine if South Carolina needs casinos

South Carolina has new coalition to determine if the state needs casinos

It looks like South Carolina may be coming around and has realized that it has been missing out on an important source of revenue over the years. A new coalition has been formed that will study the gambling industry and try to determine if the Palmetto State is ready for casinos. As usual, the idea is already causing lawmakers on both sides of the table to start bickering.

South Carolina has new coalition to determine if the state needs casinosThe new group, the Palmetto Forum for Gaming Studies (PFGS), includes the state’s former Treasurer and Assembly member, Converse Chellis, and Dr. Jim Rex, its superintendent of education and the chair for the group. Chellis has previously indicated an openness to alternative methods of increasing the state’s financial capabilities, stating, “As a former state representative, I understand how the legislative process works, and as state treasurer I have seen the need for additional revenue streams. I’m not in favor of increasing the tax burden on our citizens. It’s time to be more creative.”

Rex adds, “Like everybody else in the state, I’ve also been hitting potholes for the last 15 years and I’ve seen our infrastructure and road needs not be addressed. Most politicians don’t want to talk about raising taxes. So either we live with those inadequacies or we start getting creative about other ways to find other revenue streams.”

South Carolina is, by all definitions, a conservative state. It hasn’t supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 and virtually every government division — Senate, House, Congressional delegation and even the Governor’s house — are under the control of Republicans.

The PFGS is finding some support — and detractors — for their efforts among lawmakers. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat who represents Richland County, is for gambling expansion in the state. He says that it will give South Carolina more revenue and, if positioned appropriately, won’t interfere with the family-friendly atmosphere that attracts millions of visitors each year.

Rutherford explains, “We increased education spending 300 million dollars in the House budget last year. Some of that came from the lottery, but a lot of it came from general fund money. General fund money that needs to be spent on infrastructure, general fund money that needs to be spent on HIV/AIDS funding, and other needs that are out there that everybody would acknowledge that we have to spend money on. But again, it’s also about giving consumers a choice.”

To the surprise of no one, Republicans across the hall aren’t ready to embrace gambling. In an effort to save state residents from themselves, Republican Kirkman Finlay, who also represents Richland County, says, “We’re creating the ability for people to lose money in ways that they probably shouldn’t anyway,” adding, “Generating tax dollars is not a moral imperative to do other things that you wouldn’t normally do.”

Morals and ethics aren’t two words that should generally be brought up in the topic of politics. It’s okay for South Carolina to offer a lottery — which, in case lawmakers didn’t realize, is a form of gambling — while it turns its back on other forms in order to prevent citizens from making their own choices on how to spend their own money. Despite a misguided belief, gambling isn’t inherently evil and very people would be surprised to learn that many of those opposing legalized gambling took part, at some point or another, in some type of gambling activity.