It's time to let people enjoy a friendly game of bridge or canasta - without breaking the law.
According to a musty 1802 state anti-gambling law that is still on the books, games involving cards and dice are illegal.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, intends to change that. It's about time someone did.
Mr. Davis started his quest when he learned that the management of Sun City Hilton Head, as advised by a SLED agent, told residents that they could no longer use meeting rooms for card games or mah jong, even though no money was being exchanged.
As ludicrous as the prohibition sounds, legislative efforts to change it have failed in the past. Some social conservative groups have fought attempts out of fear that a change would inadvertently give gambling a legal foothold in South Carolina.
That's why Sen. Davis has agreed to stipulate in a bill that such games may not involve money. And he is open to other adjustments like adding a sunset clause, which would require the bill's re-authorization in five years.
He is interested simply in writing some sense into the law. Surely the vast majority of South Carolinians do not feel that bridge clubs are a threat to the health and safety of the state. Further, he believes that a statement by S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal compels the change. She called the law "hopelessly outdated" and instructed the Legislature to modernize it.
Sen. Davis is ready to do that. The Legislature should support him because it is the sensible thing to do.
But there is another reason: Sen. Davis, a lawyer, is ready to sue if he can't get cooperation from the Legislature on his bill. His aim is not to be combative, he tells us. It's to make sure legislators understand that the law as it stands now is unconstitutional and must be amended.
Sen. Davis said he is happy to hear from conservative groups - or others - with concerns about the bill. Like them, he doesn't want to invite gambling and its seamy underbelly into the state. He is willing to fine-tune the bill as appropriate, and has even asked SLED for input into its wording.
His methodical, cautionary approach is wise. For years, legislators were unwilling to make changes necessary to allow charitable organizations to hold raffles. Again, the holdup was whether changes would somehow allow serious gambling to take hold here.
It was not until 2013 that they agreed on a raffle bill, whose success was largely due to the carefully constructed and detailed restrictions in the law that put squeamish people's fears to rest.
Voters in November will decide, via a referendum, whether to change the state's constitution so that the law can be implemented.
It is encouraging that Oran Smith of the Palmetto Family Council and other like-minded groups are in agreement with Sen. Davis' intent.
The senator's zeal is understandable. His Sun City constituents number 14,000, many of whom want to participate in one of the 100 or so clubs at the retirement community.
Mr. Davis correctly called the reason they can't "completely silly."
Indeed, residents in almost any retirement center can be found playing bridge or canasta. Does anyone really want to deprive retirees of such pleasant, harmless diversion?
There are plenty of good reasons to oppose gambling making further inroads into the state. Addiction and crime are but two.
Some would say that even the state-sponsored lottery has negative impacts on individuals and families who fritter away money that they need for groceries and medicine.
But Sen. Davis is clear that his bill will not open the state up to gambling. What he wants to do is simply change a silly, outdated law.
The Legislature should support him.
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