Casino Gambling Enters Political Discussions

By Paul Gable

Casino gambling emerged from the shadows and directly entered South Carolina political discussions yesterday when S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford disclosed his plan for funding road repairs in the state.

Rutherford said he plans to introduce a bill into the General Assembly next year to allow casino gambling in Myrtle Beach to create a revenue stream for roads.

From what we understand, Rutherford’s plan is for commercial gambling casinos not Indian gaming, but it fits into the overall discussions that have been going on around Horry County for the past six months or so.

Horry County’s so-called movers and shakers want casino gambling legalized. This is just another option.

There are a few glitches in Rutherford’s plan. Mainly it appears, on the surface at least, to be local legislation not even sponsored by the local legislative delegation. We all know local legislation is barred by the S.C. Constitution, but goes on all the time.

In addition, there has been no known contact between Rutherford and local leaders. The local group has been meeting with Indian gaming representatives to this point.

However, when it comes to casino gambling, nothing is impossible in Horry County.

While Rutherford has his proposal, Governor Nikki Haley keeps referring to a mysterious plan for funding roads that she will announce in January 2015. Haley seems intent on keeping this plan a secret through the 2014 general election.

She has said her plan will not include a tax increase and won’t rely on state revenues exceeding projections. In other words, some new funding source.

At least one Indian gaming representative who has met with Horry County leaders in the past several months has said he was assured Haley would agree to allow Indian gambling casinos into the state if she was re-elected.

It only takes the signature of the governor on a compact with one or more tribes to bring Indian gambling casinos into the state. Commercial gaming would take legislation in the General Assembly, but could be structured to create a larger revenue stream for state and local governments.

Until Haley discloses her mystery revenue funding stream for roads will come from some other source, I believe a casino gambling deal with one or more Native American tribes will provide the funding.

Why is Haley reluctant to disclose her road funding source? If it is not casino gambling, what other new revenue source could provide for road needs?

This conversation is in its early stages, but promises to become more interesting the closer we get to November.

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