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Court Says Video Poker Legal in SC

November 20, 1998

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Opponents of South Carolina’s $2.3 billion video gambling industry vow to press their plans to get voters to outlaw the game despite the state Supreme Court’s ruling that it doesn’t violate a constitutional ban.

``Just because the Supreme Court said it’s legal doesn’t mean the people can’t ban video poker,″ Senate President Pro Tem John Drummond said after Thursday’s 3-2 decision.

The ruling, which was an advisory opinion, was a blow to anti-video gambling forces, including outgoing Gov. David Beasley, who called the machines the ``crack cocaine of gambling.″

Beasley was rebuffed by the Democrat-controlled Senate this year when he tried to get a ban through the Legislature and was defeated by Democratic Gov.-elect Jim Hodges, who has proposed a state lottery. Hodges received critical support from the video gambling industry.

The justices were asked to rule by a federal judge hearing a lawsuit by gamblers who lost money to the machines and who contended the industry broke state law.

``Video gaming devices do not come within the plain and ordinary meaning of `lottery’ because they do not involve a drawing and `tickets,‴ Chief Justice Ernest Finney wrote for the majority.

However, Justices Jean Toal, who dissented, said U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson still could decide on his own that the machines are unconstitutional.

``This determination ultimately is in the hands of the federal district court,″ she wrote.

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