Could Myrtle Beach be expecting new casino laws within the next couple of years? Some lawmakers would like to see it happen, but other politicians and concerned citizens are worried that the benefits might not outweigh the detriments that gambling can bring in.
Long time Myrtle Beach residents and regular tourists have long been having a debate about the possibility of a casino coming to the Grand Strand, one of the biggest tourist attractions located on the southeastern coast. It’s generally a hot topic in the area every few years, with one side saying how much tourism casinos would bring to the town and the other side saying how much crime it would be responsible for ushering in. So far, there hasn’t been much widespread support for gambling in general, not since video poker was outlawed back in 1999, but some South Carolina lawmakers are keen on bringing gambling to the state as a way to bring in revenue that would then go on to fund important infrastructure projects such as the renovation of state bridges and roads.
Representative Todd Rutherford, a Columbia Democrat, is planning to introduce a bill sometime in the next year that’d permit higher class casinos to operate on the Grand Stand while using the taxes obtained from them to repair broken down South Carolina bridges and roads. He introduced the bill back in July after 80% of voting Democrats voted in favor of bringing in new gaming laws that would benefit South Caroline roads.
John Rhodes, the current mayor of the city, is skeptical of the whole idea, saying that he’s seen these sorts of things attempted in the past just to fail later on. Aside from that, he isn’t entirely sure that bringing casinos to town would be an overall good idea. He urges supporters to look at what has been happening recently in Atlantic City, which was the home of the Showboat Casino and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, both of which are preparing to close down completely by September of 2014. In addition to that, Revel Casino Hotel is the newest casino in Atlantic City, having been open for a little over 2 years, and is already being sold at a bankruptcy auction. Some just do not see gambling as the golden ticket that would bring so many benefits, and many of them are very concerned about the crime legalized casinos would bring to the city.
According to Rutherford, new casinos in Myrtle Beach would mean a new stream of state revenue that could funnel billions of dollars towards the renovation of many state roads and highways without the need to tax any other areas, such as the gas tax which hasn’t changed for over two decades, but some local residents are not keen on the idea.
David Hucks has organized rallies aimed at protesting against the thought at the Myrtle Beach People’s Rally, along with other key topics. He feels that Myrtle Beach is a family friendly town and that adding casinos might damage that reputation.
South Carolina has had a history with gambling in the past, as video poker machines had been allowed up until 1999 and the Big M Casino Cruise boat regularly takes patrons out of South Carolina and into international waters by operating out of Little River.
Voters were asked if they favored changing gambling laws in order to support South Carolina roads and 80% of democrats in the state voted favorably of the idea. Rutherford later announced the idea in July, but for it to actually become signed into law, the bill would need approval from 2/3rds inside both South Carolina General Assembly chambers, which would then allow it to be placed on the 2016 ballot. At that time, if it were to get widespread voter approval, it would then go back to the General Assembly in order to get a second approval.
Some of the residents are concerned that bringing casinos to town would simultaneously bring in a lot more problems than they previously had, such as organized crime. David Hucks, the event organizer putting together the protest, foresees his rally will bring in about 12,000 attendees to voice their disapproval of the idea.