Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell is betting that hearings in North Charleston and Greenville will generate enough support to pass legislation that will legalize friendly poker games and church raffles in this state.

"I believe we can build a base of support across South Carolina that will make this General Assembly move," said McConnell, R-Charleston.

Public hearings are scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday in North Charleston City Hall and March 30, beginning at 5:30 p.m., in Greenville County Council Chambers.

To speak, attendees will have to sign in when they arrive and comments will be taken as time permits.

McConnell authored two bills earlier this month. The first would update existing gaming laws and the second calls for a constitutional amendment that would authorize churches and charities to hold raffles.

As it is now, state law technically prohibits people from playing card games, including poker, among friends. It also is illegal for churches and nonprofit groups to hold casino nights or raffle items to raise money.

In April 2006, five local men were ticketed during a Mount Pleasant poker raid for playing Texas Hold 'em.

Neither bill would permit slot machines, electronic video-gaming machines or wagering tied to live sports events. Under the proposal, social gambling would be permitted as long as "no house player, house bank or house odds exist, and where there is no house income from the operation of the game."

"I think we need to make sure people on a grass-roots basis understand what it does and doesn't do," McConnell said.

Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, will lead the hearings. He said it is important that the state straighten up its antiquated gaming laws, some of which date back to the 1800s.


A public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at North Charleston City Hall, 4900 LaCross Road. To read the bills, log on to the Statehouse web site and search by bill number — 535 and 560.

Read and comment on Yvonne Wenger's blog, The Daily Briefing.