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S.C. lawmaker says votes at hand to beat video poker

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–The votes to win the battle to ban video poker gambling are at hand in South Carolina, according to the president pro tem of the state Senate. Sen. John Drummond, a member of First Baptist Church in Ninety-Six and a longtime opponent of the gaming industry, said, in fact, “there is more support in the Senate now than ever before” to ban video poker in South Carolina, a step already taken by the House of Representatives Feb. 11.
The House bill, approved by an 86-32 vote, would ban video poker machines in South Carolina by June 1999. The measure also declared a moratorium on the issuing of new licenses.
Drummond, who also chairs the finance committee of the Senate, called video poker a “family destroying industry” and a “very strong moral issue” but noted Senate action on the House bill probably will not come quickly. Sen. John Land, also a Democrat, whose district includes Lee, Clarendon, Sumter, Florence and Calhoun counties, has vowed to filibuster against the anti-video poker bill, of which Drummond is a co-sponsor. Saying that he and others who support the ban on video poker will “play by the rules of the Senate,” Drummond said, if necessary, they simply will “wait it out” to cast their votes in favor of the ban. The bottom line, according to Drummond, whose district includes Greenwood and Abbeville counties, is video poker is “not an industry that we want in South Carolina.” Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church, North Spartanburg, who is helping coordinate efforts by South Carolina Baptists to fight video poker, agreed the anti-gambling crusade is “going to be a long battle and we must be vigilant.” Hamlet, giving a legislative update at the state Baptist convention’s recent evangelism conference in Taylors, said the war against video poker is “not a partisan effort, not about politics.” He said believers, who are “called to be salt and light” in society, must “take a stand” to stop video poker gambling in South Carolina. Calling it a “plague,” he said, “We need to ban this practice in our state. The time is right.” To those who argue that the controversy should be settled
By a statewide referendum, Hamlet cited the need for lawmakers to act in the best interests of the state. “We have a representative form of government,” he said, “not a referendum form of government.”
South Carolina Baptists made a difference in the state House of Representatives’ vote to ban video poker, Al Phillips, associate pastor of the North Spartanburg church, told The Baptist Courier, the convention’s newsjournal.
“The legislators were overwhelmed with calls and contacts from South Carolina Baptists standing against video poker,” Phillips said.
Of the upcoming Senate deliberations, Phillips noted, “With only 46 senators, it takes 29 votes to turn back a filibuster attempt. … There is some question as to whether we will have the votes. The video poker industry will only need 17 senators, so they don’t have to persuade as many.”
Also in the state Senate, Democrats and Republicans have hurled charges and countercharges at each other over which has reaped the most benefits from the $2-billion-a-year video poker industry in the state.
Revelations include a Republican senator accepting money from the industry and a Democratic senator soliciting such donations. The matter got even more muddled with the disclosure that the primary sponsor of the Senate bill profits from gamblers in his district who buy tickets for the Georgia lottery at convenience stores owned by a company of which he is the CEO just across the state line.