Private Poker Bill Launched In South Carolina


New initiative seeks to change a two centuries old ban to allow social games and fundraisers

For 207 years the US state of South Carolina has maintained a law against any games using cards or dice, but that could be about to change. The antiquity of the law makes it ineffective in a new era where games and attitudes have changed, and Charleston senator and Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell has given notice that he intends to do something about it.

McConnell's solution is a new bill that seeks to legalise social gambling and gambling-themed fundraisers, and he has introduced it to allow for gambling in private homes when there is no house profit, and to allow churches and other non-profit organisations to hold "casino night"-style fundraisers that do not involve slot machines, video gambling, or sports betting.

McConnell referred to the age of the current law in launching the bill, pointing out that if taken literally, it could outlaw innocuous board games such as Monopoly.

The government should not be in the business of regulating groups of friends gathered to enjoy social and private games, the politician, who is chairman of the state senate's Judiciary Committee, said. He added that updating the ancient law would also give fresh opportunities for charity fundraising in a depressed economy where this was becoming increasingly difficult.

The Poker Players Alliance has come out in support of Senator McConnell's drive, saying South Carolina is one of only a few American states that legislates against social and private gaming by its citizens.

However, there may be opposition to the bill; Senator Wes Hayes is concerned about its impact following the protracted differences in the legislature over video poker, which was finally banned in 2000. "It's a delicate balance," said Hayes, noting that he'd rather have outdated laws than open up the possibility of allowing unwanted forms of gambling to be resurrected.

This is not the first time that an attempt has been made to legalise private gaming in South Carolina and bring the state into the 21st century; in 2007 a similar bill introduced by House Representative Wallace Scarborough was defeated in committee.

Ironically, South Carolina runs a state lottery.

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