A Richland County Councilman who voted against a moratorium on Internet sweepstakes businesses is a State House lobbyist for a gaming company.
Councilman Damon Jeter lists Magic Minutes LLC as one of his clients on his registration with the S.C. Ethics Commission. On his registration form, he reported that he follows sweepstakes games on behalf of his client, a vending machine company.
But Jeter said he does not have a conflict of interest when voting on sweepstakes issues before County Council.
And it appears the S.C. Ethics Commission would agree with him, as long as Magic Minutes does not have any of its machines inside the Internet sweepstakes centers that have license applications pending with the county.
During this weeks County Council meeting, Jeter pushed the county to approve six pending business license applications for Internet sweepstakes businesses. He also challenged his colleagues who questioned the legality of Internet sweepstakes games.
On Wednesday, Jeter defended his role as a lobbyist and a councilman.
The company I represent at the State House is not an Internet cafe, Jeter said. Last nights discussion was for Internet cafes.
Instead, Magic Minutes is a company that has video game machines in stores, Jeter said.
Kathy Flynn, who is Magic Minutes registered agent with the S.C. Secretary of State, said her company is a vending machine business that sells long-distance airtime minutes. She said the company places the machines in convenience stores.
We dont mess with the Internet cafes at all, she said.
She referred all questions about Magic Minutes relationship with Jeter to her husband, L.W. Flynn, who is also with the company but could not be reached for comment.
On Magic Minutes registration with the ethics commission, it reported that it hired Jeter for all bills effecting Magic Minutes, LLC, directly or indirectly.
Cathy Hazelwood, the Ethics Commissions deputy director, said Jeter would not violate state ethics laws as long as all of the sweepstakes companies with business before Richland County do not install Magic Minutes games.
If the six Internet cafes he was championing end up with Magic Minutes, then he has a problem, Hazelwood said.
Internet sweepstakes businesses have spread across the state because operators believe they have found a loophole in the states gambling laws. At the cafes, customers buy phone cards or Internet usage time and are given entries into sweepstakes in exchange for those purchases. The sweepstakes give them chances to win prizes.
The 30-day moratorium on these businesses failed Tuesday before County Council on a 5-6 vote after a lengthy, spirited discussion.
During the discussion, Jeter suggested the council define what the businesses are, then argued for the approval of six pending applications. When Councilwoman Val Hutchinson cited a letter from 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson stating his opinion that the sweepstakes games violated state law, Jeter disputed her.
Mrs. Hutchinson, you cant refer to this as illegal activity, he said.
He voted against the moratorium.
On Wednesday, Jeter said, Everybody seems to think I was arguing for whatever reason for sweepstakes. I dont know what yall were listening to.
He went on to say, If youre trying to make it an issue, its really not an issue.
But at least one of Jeters fellow council members said she has a problem with Jeters two roles.
I know Mr. Jeter, said Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson. When he pushes issues like that Im always concerned about it.
When Dickerson was asked if Jeter should have disclosed his lobbying efforts during the meeting, she said, I do think we should be transparent when we are dealing with issues like that.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.