Citizens and Lawmakers in Gambling Standoff
A recent Winthrop University poll shows that more residents of South Carolina support legalized casino gambling in the state, especially if the tax proceeds were earmarked for road improvements, an issue that South Carolina and other states have had trouble funding. The majority of state legislature is still adamantly opposed to legalization and proponents of gambling argue that it should be decided by the voters of South Carolina in a referendum to amend the State Constitution.
Casino Boats and PotholesFor now, the only legalized casino gambling establishments in South Carolina are the casino boats that operate in international waters. The Winthrop poll showed that 54 percent of poll respondents approved of casino gambling, a marked increase over the poll results publicized in October of 2014; at that time, only 47.3 percent of respondents supported a limited number of casinos, the exact same percentage that opposed them in the same poll. When asked in the most recent poll who approved of casino gaming if the state used the proceeds for road improvements, surveyors saw an increase that reached 68 percent of respondents approving of legalized gambling . The condition of the state’s infrastructure has been an issue recently and while the legislature has made road work a priority, it is still sticking point with South Carolina voters.
Legalized Gambling Relieves Budget StressIf the legislation is approved, South Carolina will join a long list of states that have used legalized gambling to fill holes in both their roads and their budgets. Kansas, Maryland, Maine and Ohio, among others have expanded legalized gambling recent years for the tax revenue that it generates. State Representative Todd Rutherford, D-Richland said, “What South Carolinans are saying in this poll is that they are tired of Republicans digging into their pockets and taking their tax money when there is another alternative”.
Republicans Firmly Dig in Their Heels on the IssueThe Republican-controlled State House and Senate disagree strongly with what voters seem to increasingly desire. Republican leaders in the State of South Carolina are opposed to legalized gambling as a solution t0 the state’s financial woes, citing increases in crime and additive behavior. State Senator Shane Massey, R-Edgefield said that he “cannot see how gambling is a solution to our problems,” and continued by expressing further displeasure at the idea by saying that, “It likely creates even more problems. I can’t imagine 68 percent of my constituents supporting that”.
Limited Casinos ProposedProponents of legalized gambling say that limited casinos in the Savannah and Myrtle Beach tourist areas would be enough to relieve some of the State’s ongoing financial stress. While it currently seems unlikely that South Carolina’s lawmakers will legalize casino gambling, a voter referendum could possibly force the government’s hand or even bypass lawmakers entirely. Regardless of the outcome of this proposal, poll numbers strongly indicate that South Carolinans are exploring more progressive ideas to resolve the State’s current and any future budget issues. After all, at the end of the day, Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between want to drive on safe, sound roads.
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