The Cathedral of St. Al Davis

The eternal flame in honor of St. Al is just too much.

* Could South Carolina rush in where Georgia has hesitated? The Palmetto State has costly infrastructure problems and Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has indicated he would veto any attempt to fix them via higher gas taxes, preferring to borrow $1 billion instead. But some lawmakers think the time for casinos has come. “I think that the amount of support for luxury casinos is already there. I think when the governor makes statements like these,” said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford (D left), “[it] is indicative of the fact that he doesn’t understand the best way to run the state. But we can all recognize that new money is needed in order to fund the problem. Casinos is simply the best way to raise that new revenue.”

Enter the aptly named Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus (R), who wants to bring the casino idea back from the grave and install gambling along the Myrtle Beach strand. The idea, naturally, raises the ire of the churchy set as well as those who think that gaming is tapped out as a revenue source. “It might be a way to raise revenue, but the casino industry, it’s not the golden goose that it once was,” cautions state Sen. Greg Hembree (R), who’s got a point. His colleague, state Sen. Bill Herbkersman (R) took a common-sense approach, saying, “If you don’t want the casino you don’t have to go, we’re not forcing anyone.”

Although the idea of legalized casino gambling has overwhelming popular support in South Carolina opinion polls, proponents are divided on where the money should go. Some want the taxes to prop up infrastructure, while others think they should do the same for pension plans. Casino opponents argue it’s not a reliable revenue spigot compared to gas taxes, adding that the latter has the virtue of having the users of the roads pay for their repair. And there isn’t a concerted, grass-roots push in support of gaming.

So it looks as though lawmakers will continue to be thwarted by the likes of Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean, who points to the nearby availability of ‘cruises to nowhere’ and says, “The Myrtle Beach area is already a tourist mecca and even has greater potential to grow without any gaming.” Other cities mooted for casinos are Rock Hill, just south of Charlotte, North Carolina, and quiet North Augusta.

While there appears to be enough popular support to pass a constitutional amendment enabling casinos in South Carolina, the Legislature is much too heavily divided — and McMaster (left) would need to be persuaded. Also, casino proponents have left the cause until late in the session, which never bodes well for success. If Georgia gets serious about casinos, expect some major rethinking in South Carolina. Until then, monitor this frequency.

* While the jury may still be out on skill-based slots, early indications from Planet Hollywood are promising. “The people were younger. I saw some great crowd enthusiasm. People were fist-bumping even when they were losing, which is a great sign. I saw a lot of families playing and people sitting for an hour-and-a-half jawing with each other,” said Gamblit CEO Eric Meyerhofer of his company’s devices, which are benefiting from an early deployment program called Innovation Beta. The preliminary metrics disclose that not is the average time on device (the Holy Grail of slot makers) 45 minutes but, the longer customers play, the higher they bet. Best of all from Meyerhofer’s perspective, the player demographics were “skewing younger.” Let’s face it, fellow Baby Boomers, we must adapt to the casinos of today or be put out to pasture.

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