COLUMBIA — Some of them say it's silly that Monopoly, Go Fish and arcade games are against the law.
And some might even believe it's a waste of police time to bust penny-ante kitchen-table poker games.
But don't expect state lawmakers to do anything about it anytime soon. That's one debate that's just too controversial to take up in the General Assembly right now.
"It's difficult to figure out how to draw the line," said House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.
Lawmakers struggle with setting a boundary, he said. As in, what do you make illegal without opening the door for back-room casinos, such as the house recently raided in Hanahan that was said to be operating as one.
"That's why you see some members who just say 'no' to any of it," Harrell said.
Also, lawmakers argue there's no time this year to take on a complex issue such as South Carolina's gaming laws. It's one roll of the dice few are willing to make these days.
Throw in the fact that it's an election year, and that religious groups would balk at the slightest inclination that lawmakers might legalize gambling, and South Carolinians might get used to the idea that anytime they pass Go and collect $200, they might go directly to jail.
"Nobody wants to prosecute a game of Monopoly or Go Fish," said Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter. "We understand how far our gaming statute goes, it's that — is it going to knowingly open the door to gambling?"
Since the 1700s, the state's gaming laws have been changed very little, with spotty updates that ban certain card and dice games — Yahtzee and Monopoly, for example — in certain places such as a tavern, barn, kitchen, stable and outhouse.
Legislators also argued Tuesday that under the strictest definition of the laws, arcade games could be considered illegal, too.
Today, a House subcommittee will decide the fate of a bill that would let people play games such as Five-Card Draw, Texas Hold 'em and Seven-Card Stud around a poker table with friends.
Rep. Wallace Scarborough, R-James Island, introduced the bill early last year after police raided a Mount Pleasant home in April 2006 where poker players paid $20 to get into the game, with a portion of the proceeds to the house.
Scarborough said his bill would allow low buy-ins for recreational games, but the house could not take a cut and the game could not be advertised.
Scarborough said his bill gained early support, but opposition from the Southern Baptist Convention quickly derailed it.
Now, after news of the latest poker bust, people are again talking about the bill.
"I, in no way shape or form, want to legalize gambling in this state," Scarborough said. He just wants folks at the VFW, or the country club, or even at his mother's bridge club to be able to raise the stakes on a friendly game with a little money, he said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, fought for support Tuesday for a bill he sponsored that would allow prizes to be handed out for games of skill, such as skee-ball, pinball or a novelty arcade machine.
The concern is, though, that the bill would open a window, or move the state a little bit closer, to allowing video poker or other forms of gambling.
The House Judiciary Committee agreed in a 10-4 vote to send the bill to the full House, although Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Columbia, said it will probably die a quick death. He said the problem is that the bill does not limit the prizes that could be awarded for the games.
"If all we're trying to do is allow these games to give away teddy bears … I don't think anybody would have a problem with that," he said. "But it looks like it might move us well beyond amusement machines."
Supporters of the bill argue that the current gaming laws are selectively enforced and can be interpreted any number of ways, and Rutherford's proposal would lead to debate that could add some clarity.
Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, said the Legislature needs to face the situation head-on and come up with a set of standards that reflect South Carolina values.
"Unfortunately, the system now is, we're almost in a state of total paranoia that something's going to lead to gambling," he said.