South Carolina Casino and Card Room Gaming
The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a 1999 circuit court decision allowing casino boats to operate. The court emphasized that responsibility for any future ban lies with the State General Assembly, which could opt out of the federal Johnson Act, which allows gambling on U.S.-based vessels once they passed the three-mile limit of territorial waters. In 1999 and 2000, the state House passed legislation banning the casino cruises, only to see the proposal defeated in the state Senate.
South Carolina state law allows counties with casino boats to assess a tax of up to 10% of the boarding fees and 5% of gross proceeds, or eliminate casino excursions altogether by giving the operators five years' notice.
A judge ruled in 2005 Georgetown County could not ban the boats, saying that power remains only with the state. The county appealed and in May 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled that the county's first ordinance to ban the boats was invalid.
In June 2007, after two years of debate, Horry County lawmakers finally voted to ban casino boats. All boats were to leave in five years.
In January 2008, Horry County officials and representatives of two casino cruise operators agreed on an ordinance that resolved budget problems of the Coast Regional Transportation Authority. The casino boat operators also agreed to drop their lawsuit that challenged a boat tax passed by the county in the prior year. As part of the deal, each operator would pay a $7 per passenger fee in lieu of taxes. They also agreed to pay a $400,000 advance on their fees to help bolster the state budget.
In May 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled that casino boat companies did not have to report gaming machine wagers to the state. They need only submit a report with the percentage of winnings to losses.
In 2006, a small group of poker players were convicted for illegal gambling at a private residence near Charleston. The group appealed the decision and in May 2009, a South Carolina judge threw the convictions out and ruled that Texas Hold'em was a game of skill, not an illegal game of chance as the state contended. The judge's ruling was overturned by in November 2012 by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which ruled that organized poker games are illegal, even in a private home. The justices cited the state laws dating back to 1802 that ban wagering on Texas Hold'em and dismissed the idea that poker could be exempt from that law as a game of skill rather than of chance.
Casino operations aboard ships in international waters are unregulated, and therefore Casino City does not include revenue from these activities.
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