Originally created 05/13/02

Senators work out bingo bill changes



AIKEN - Bingo operators got conflicting messages last week from the South Carolina Legislature.

The Senate Finance Committee rejected parts of a House bill that would allow for more bingo games per daily sessions, more prize money and more licenses for operators.

On Wednesday, the committee rejected increasing the daily $8,000 payout limit to $12,000.

In addition, Finance Committee members voted against raising the number of bingo sessions per week from three to six. They also shot down an increase of bingo licenses for bingo operators from five to 15.

Bingo operators apparently have friends in the House who hoped to see those measures passed by piggybacking them on a Senate bill changing the fee-in-lieu-of-taxes law.

The amendment was added by House members after it was sent to the House in February.

That bill passed its third reading last week in the House and now heads back to the Senate.

Both bills dealing with bingo - the one passed by Senate finance panel and the one approved by the House - include tighter rules for bingo operators, however.

Some critics say bingo operators are thwarting undercover auditors by not announcing the value of prizes, which both bills would demand.

An Aiken Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said the House amendment won't be accepted by the Senate.

"I don't think you're going to see any expansion of the bingo legislation," Sen. Greg Ryberg said.

Legislators are expected to work out the differences in a conference committee.

The Senate fee-in-lieu bill would allow municipalities to increase the extension period on such agreements, which allow a business to pay a fee lower than what would be its assessed tax rate each year as an incentive for locating in an area.

In other matters last week, House members voted to table a bill that would have allowed those who sell alcohol to sell lottery tickets. Some critics of the bill said it would encourage those under 21 who can legally buy lottery tickets to enter liquor stores, where they can't legally buy alcohol.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.