Originally created 01/08/97

Revisit poker mess



The North Augusta City Council is wagering that the new zoning map it approved Monday will keep video poker under control and the city out of court.

The Council backed off its original plan, to limit video poker businesses to a 300 acre stretch along U.S. Highway 1, extending from the old K mart building to the hippodrome.

But poker machine operators pointed out they should be entitled to locate in the same areas they were before the state Supreme Court ruled the referendums in Aiken and 11 other counties banning video poker were unconstitutional. Consequently, in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit, Council voted to include as part of the video poker area a section of Atomic Road extending from Martintown Road to the Breckenridge Apartments.

The Aiken County Council is also grappling with the video poker conundrum. A public hearing on restricting the outlets was delayed until Jan. 28 because a Planning Commission proposal that takes a harder line on the games than heretofore considered wasn't forwarded to the Council in time for this week's meeting.

As one watches South Carolina localities struggle with limiting video poker games they don't want, it's hard to believe the state constitution prohibits gambling.

Arcane, perverse state Supreme Court rulings got the state in this video poker mess. The General Assembly's solution was to let each county decide whether it wanted the machines or not. But now that's been thrown out, too, on grounds that a criminal code can't vary from county to county.

So it's up to lawmakers to revisit the issue to find a statewide solution that would give counties the control they want over video gambling. This will be one of the major challenges in the upcoming legislative session.