Cindi’s column today (“The danger of video gambling isn’t the gambling“) about the problem with video gambling in SC today contained a paragraph that she would keep on a SAVE/GET key* if she still had one:
Video gambling was born of corruption. A powerful state senator, who would escape federal extortion charges only by dying before the indictments could be issued, slipped what he called a “technical” change into state law that legalized one of the most addictive forms of gambling on earth. Over the next decade, the rogue industry grew into one of the most potent political forces in our state by ignoring what meager laws we had and pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of its ill-gotten gains into political campaigns. At its heyday, it was admitting to revenue equal to half the state budget. It managed to take out a governor and nearly take over the Legislature.
The “powerful state senator,” of course, was Jack Lindsay, of Bennettsville, my hometown. And the way he got the “technical” change into law was via a proviso. Provisos are of course a terrible way to make state law, precisely because they’re a great way to sneak something past one’s colleagues.
What a lot of my readers — such as Bud — fail to understand about video poker is that the problem wasn’t the gambling, per se. Although it was indeed a particularly insidious and addictive form of gambling. The reason The State‘s editorial board turned against it was the way we saw it undermine and corrupt the legislative process. Toward the end, it was rare for lawmakers ever to dare try to effectively regulate or tax it, because they knew they’d face well-financed primary opposition if they did. (Which is why in recent years you’d sometimes see references to “school choice” as a latter-day video poker.)
They looked upon the fate of David Beasley and trembled. And despite what our governor thinks, a trembling Legislature is not actually a “beautiful thing.”