Originally created 02/23/98

Gambling ban faces filibuster



COLUMBIA -- The Senate's majority leader says he will filibuster the entire state budget, if necessary, to stop a video-gambling ban.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Friday inserted a measure to ban the games in two sections of the 1998-99 budget, including one spot that would not require a two-thirds majority of the Senate to approve.

Earlier this month, the full House voted to ban video gambling starting next year. But that bill faces a filibuster by key senators. To save the bill, 29 of 46 senators must vote to shut off debate. Supporters concede they do not have the votes to shut off filibusters vowed by Sens. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, and John Land, D-Manning.

Senate rules also prevent most changes in law from being tacked on to the budget without the approval of 31 senators. But House members Friday also placed the ban in a budget section where changes to law last for only one year. Changes there require only a majority vote.

"It is definitely going to make the Senate address this issue," said Rep. Alfred Robinson Jr., R-Easley. "This is a good mechanism to force the issue."

But Mr. Land, Senate majority leader, said the gambling war is far from over. "They still need the votes to sit me down, and I don't think they have them," he said.

"I'm sure they are going to try everything in the book to ban video poker, and we'll do likewise for our cause," Mr. Land said. Asked if that meant he would filibuster the whole budget, he said: "Certainly. We're going to fight fire with fire."

"If need be, we'll just endorse last year's budget," he said. "And that would suit me fine."

The gambling bans were inserted in a $4.9 billion spending plan that -- with the exception of education -- had little new money to offer most state agencies.