Originally created 01/18/01

Ban lottery donations



Before South Carolina legislators decide how to put together the machinery for a state-run lottery, they need first to ensure the process won't be tainted by the gambling industry getting its nose back under the tent.

The industry is still smarting from the state Supreme Court ruling that put video poker out of business 18 months ago. This came after it poured millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of gambling-friendly state lawmakers - particularly those Democrats representing the Myrtle Beach area and other high-profile tourist communities.

These lawmakers became addicted to the contributions and one way they can ensure themselves the gift that keeps on giving is to block the effort to prohibit lottery vendors from making such donations.

Specifically, the proposed legislation would mandate that would-be lottery vendors not give money or gifts to any person or group that could influence lottery legislation.

This is the very first lottery rule lawmakers should pass. It builds public confidence that the lottery operation will be clean and honest.

Other lottery states, including Georgia, have the prohibition. It's a fundamental step to take, not only to keep gambling influence out of the lottery, but also out of other state business.

Politicians who have benefited from gambling contributions are, of course, making excuses not to ban them. They claim it's unfair, unconstitutional. That's nonsense. What constitutional principle is Georgia's ban violating?

The problem is the same band of pro-gambling lawmakers who filibustered to death every effort to get rid of video poker (before the supreme court did it), could also filibuster the ban.

The hope is that Gov. Jim Hodges, who himself won election largely on gambling interests' campaign contributions, will rise, statesmanlike, to insist on the ban. This will be a test to see if the governor really meant it when he said he wanted South Carolina lottery laws to mirror Georgia's.

Other elementary steps lawmakers must take to ensure a clean lottery: Extensive background checks on potential lottery operators and ban anyone convicted of a felony.