Gambling

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.

The old adage seems to be the rallying cry for those intent on introducing casino-style gambling into South Carolina, with Myrtle Beach being ground zero.

The idea is nothing new. Gambling proponents have been lobbying the S.C. Legislature for decades to allow casinos. Much to its credit, the General Assembly has beaten back those attempts.

Disheartened, but not defeated, proponents of legalizing casinos continue the fight, often touting the “benefits” that come with legalizing gambling.

The most recent stab at opening the state to casinos, being spearheaded by former S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and former Deputy State Treasurer Scott Malyerck, ostensibly seeks to conduct a study to see if legalizing casino gambling would be good for the state.

Their group, the Palmetto Forum for Gaming Studies, is conducting workshops around the state and will report its findings to the General Assembly at some point.

I suspect the report will cast favorable findings in support of legalizing casino gambling.

Rumors of a casino located somewhere in Myrtle Beach have been circulating of late. One rumor puts a new casino on the site of the old Myrtle Beach Pavilion.

Another rumor suggests a casino will pop up at the old Hard Rock amusement park near Waccamaw Pottery.

I’m hopeful the General Assembly will stick to its guns and keep the door on casino gambling closed.

However, those who think like I do may be increasingly in the minority.

A recent poll by Winthrop University found that 68 percent of respondents in South Carolina were in favor of legalizing casino gambling if the revenue was earmarked for roads and infrastructure.

This newspaper asked the same question in a recent SoundOff! poll and the results were similar. Gambling proponents outnumbered opponents by a two-to-one margin.

Those results are a bit alarming.

The coastal communities comprising the Grand Strand have become a world-class destination based on great beaches, golf, attractions, and dining opportunities. More importantly, the Grand Strand has branded itself as being family-friendly.

North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley may have put it best after hearing the proposal to study the impact of casinos.

“We have spent years and millions of dollars marketing our community, our beaches, as family-friendly, safe beaches,” Hatley said. “Casinos would change the marketing completely. I don’t know if the city of North Myrtle Beach is ready to go that way.”

That’s exactly the point I am trying to make.

There’s no doubt in my mind that casinos would thrive in Myrtle Beach. Opening the door for casinos would provide another entertainment venue to people visiting the Grand Strand, as well as attracting non-traditional tourists more interested in gambling than in getting a suntan.

But, we don’t need the problems that inevitably come with casino gambling. Let’s not ruin the good thing we’ve got.

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Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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