Saying that he supports “freedom for the people of South Carolina,” a local legislator spoke out against a legislative effort to ban sweepstakes machines.
State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, appeared on S.C. Educational Television’s “This Week in the State House” to discuss the issue with Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell and Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens.
Martin feels the sweepstakes machines that have replaced video poker, outlawed in 2000, are nothing more than “video poker 2.0.” Hutto said he is willing to let citizens make their own decision.
“You’re fine with the little things like betting on the golf course or the stock market but this is for the little people,” Hutto said.
“What is clearly in the law? Video poker is banned but sweepstakes weren’t. We have bingo and casino boats and other forms. You are not going to wish gambling away. If we didn’t have the lottery, we could say we have a policy in this state where you can’t do this.”
A bill that would have shut down the machines passed the House, but died Thursday in the Senate after the General Assembly adjourned for the session. Legislators must reintroduce the bill next year for any reconsideration.
Martin noted litigation in the courts is ongoing, saying the General Assembly hasn’t created appropriate legislation to deal with sweepstakes machines.
“My take is we should have a consensus,” Martin said. “My biggest regret is we didn’t have the debate on the Senate floor this session. We haven’t had a policy debate on whether this type of activity should be engaged in.
“When you are dealing with that type of cash money in the machine, it is ripe for all kinds of fraud. There is no tracking how much goes in and comes out. It is all unregulated.”
Several circuit courts have ruled the gaming machines legal. Many law enforcement agencies view them as illegal and have taken steps to confiscate them.
Hutto said the money should be accounted for and taxes should be paid on it.
“I think there is software that can track how much money goes into these machines,” Hutto said. “It can already be tracked when debit and credit cards are used.
“The way it’s set up, the machines can affect the profitability of some smaller mom-and-pop stores. If they are employing people and decided to have them in their store, that is a business decision.”
Unlike most other video gaming machines, sweepstakes machines involve no cash payouts. Instead, players win sweepstakes points that can be collected and traded in for Internet time or phone time.
Owners of the machines say that the outcomes are all predetermined which makes them not games of chance.
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