Originally created 02/14/98

Player audits sought

COLUMBIA -- Three former video gamblers who lobbied the Legislature to ban the $2 billion industry should have their tax returns audited, according to state Rep. Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia.

Mr. Knotts faxed a letter to the state Revenue Department on Friday asking for audits of Charlene Werts, James Peake and Kevin Bliss.

The three Midlands residents were brought to the Carolina Plaza by the Palmetto Family Council on Wednesday to talk about the dangers of video gambling.

All three said they had lost substantial amounts of money, with Mr. Bliss saying he had lost nearly $100,000.

That same day, the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would ban video gambling in 1999 over Mr. Knotts' objection. That bill is now headed to the Senate.

Mr. Knotts questioned how Mr. Bliss, who said he was a fireman, could get $100,000 to lose at video gambling.

"I am convinced these individuals should be audited to ensure that the state of South Carolina receives all moneys due," Mr. Knotts said.

Revenue Department spokesman Danny Brazell refused to comment on whether Mr. Knotts' request would be granted. But, "one of the things that triggers an audit is a tip from a taxpayer," he said.

Mr. Brazell would not comment whether the Revenue Department felt pressured since the request came from a legislator.

Palmetto Family Council Executive Director Steven Suits refused to comment.

"Our goal is to show South Carolina the damage that's being done by video poker," he said. "The pro-gambling people's response to that is their business."

The three also are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit seeking millions in damages from video gambling owners, alleging the industry breaks state law.

Mr. Bliss' lawyer, former U.S. Attorney J.P. "Pete" Strom, did not immediately return a telephone call to his office.


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