Gambling study cites video poker problem in South Carolina
June 18, 1999
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) -- A federal study of America's gambling habit criticizes the availability of video poker games at convenience stores, gas stations and truck stops.
Such games are especially hard to avoid in South Carolina and the National Gambling Impact Study, released Friday, cited the state for poor regulation and weak enforcement of laws connected with video gaming.
"The machines are there, they're staring at you wherever you go," said resident Gary Brown.
Brown makes $60,000 a year as a manager in the chemical industry. He estimates he has lost $10,000 since he first started video gambling two years ago.
"If I proved tonight the head of a large organized crime family or a triple murderer was involved in the video poker business in South Carolina, there is nothing I could do about it," said Chief Robert Stewart of the state's law enforcement division.
Each machine costs about $6,000 to buy, but rakes in about four times that amount annually. That jackpot has left the video gaming industry plenty of money and political clout in South Carolina.
Dick Harpootlian, a lawyer for video gambling interests, is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party.
He said that millions of dollars in contributions from the video poker industry helped defeat former Gov. David Beasley, a Republican, in 1998.
"I think they were a significant factor. Not the deciding factor, but one of the top three or four factors," Harpootlian said.
However, the chips may soon fall differently. A plan is under way to hold a statewide referendum, offering South Carolina residents a choice between new regulations or a total ban on video gaming.
Correspondent Aram Roston contributed to this report.
Gambling online? You bet!
American Gaming Association
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