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    S.C.'s New Video Poker Would Exclude C-stores

    State senator wants dockside gambling, special establishments.

    CHARLESTON, S.C. -- State Sen. Robert Ford will continue his push to revive the gambling industry in South Carolina when the General Assembly reconvenes next month, but convenience stores will be cut out of any opportunity, the Associated Press reported.

    Ford has sponsored two bills to bring back the state's gambling industry. The latest bill, pre-filed earlier this month, would allow for the creation of dockside gambling in the state, similar to what can be found in Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri.

    Another of Ford's bills, filed last year, calls for the reintroduction of video poker. That bill, now in a subcommittee, says video poker establishments could not operate near churches or neighborhoods and the machines would not be allowed in convenience stores.

    Ford, D-Charleston, said gambling could bring $1.3 billion to the state coffers -- money that could help with some of South Carolina's budget problems. "This is an industry that would generate a lot of money for the state, a lot of it from tourists," Ford said. "We are in serious financial trouble, and we need to find new revenues. I don't think we can ignore this," according to the AP report.

    The state is between $350 million and $500 million in debt and for the fifth straight year it has posted zero revenue gains. The state has made massive budget cuts the past three years, and more cuts could be made this year.

    Ford said the state lost a $3 billion industry when video gambling was banned statewide in 2000. The state failed to tax the industry at the time. Ford's bill calls for reinstitution of video poker with a 25 percent tax.

    "If we had taxed it, it would have generated $750 million for the state," Ford said.

    The idea of returning to state-sponsored gambling is not popular with members of the General Assembly, the news report stated.

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