The Buzz

How SC’s anti-gambling laws are holding back charities

Ray Curtis of Columbia purchases tickets for the lottery drawing in a 2010 Night With The Stars fundraiser for Palmetto Health Richland Trauma Unit.
Ray Curtis of Columbia purchases tickets for the lottery drawing in a 2010 Night With The Stars fundraiser for Palmetto Health Richland Trauma Unit. The State/File

Raffles could become a little more lucrative for charities and other South Carolina non-profits, if lawmakers tweak state restrictions that treat them like gambling.

A bill in the Legislature would allow non-profits to raise the price of raffle tickets to a maximum of $300 from $100. The value of non-cash prizes in charitable raffles also could increase to $950 from $500.

The change, approved Thursday by a state Senate panel, follows on the heels of a years-long debate over whether raffles and other events violate the state’s colonial-era anti-gambling laws.

South Carolinians only have been able to legally hold charitable raffles since 2014, when voters approved a constitutional amendment in a statewide referendum.

Prior to that, South Carolina was one of only four states to ban raffles, typically held by churches, charities, schools and sports clubs.

Opponents long have worried the raffles could open the door to other forms of gambling, even if inadvertently.

“We had a good bit of discussion of this when we overhauled the rules on raffles and bingo,” said state Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. “The worry with anything to do with gambling is that it will allow video poker to sneak back in.”

The point of the proposed reform is to increase the amount of money non-profits can raise from raffles.

“These have become pretty big charitable events, and a lot of people want to get involved,” said Massey. “They want to be able to cover the cost of the event.”

The raffle bill is one of at least two gaming measures in the Legislature this year.

A separate House bill would change the state’s legal definition of a car dealer – a move proposed specifically to cover an auction of classic cars at an annual Hilton Head Island car festival.

Alas, sports fans, fantasy football remains benched in South Carolina.

In 2016, a bill was introduced to set rules for fantasy sports contests in South Carolina – allowing sports fans to compete for money while avoiding the prohibition on sports betting.

That bill didn’t pass and hasn’t been reintroduced this year.

He's been out of Congress for 25 years, but still uses his campaign account

One former S.C. congressman has been out of office for a quarter-century, but his campaign account still is active.

Former U.S. Rep. Robin Tallon, D-Florence, who left Congress in 1993, still has his campaign account open with the Federal Election Commission.

Tallon has continued making withdrawals from the account over the years, including as recently as 2017, according to an investigation into “zombie campaigns” by the Tampa Bay Times and Tegna TV stations.

Tallon represented South Carolina’s 6th District for 10 years before he left office. He has spent the last 25 years working as a D.C. lobbyist without any apparent intention of running for office again. But Federal Election Commission rules don’t require politicians to formally end a campaign and wind down their accounts.

Tallon had $400,000 in his campaign account at the time he left Congress. By the end of 2017, that account had grown to $1,016,405.

In 2007, Tallon spent $4,000 from the account on a computer. He purchased another computer in 2014 for $2,300 from the account. In 2017, he spent $935 from the account on an iPad.

Between 2007 and 2011, the investigation found Tallon paid roughly $8,200 in “dues” to an organization identified only as “CCSC.” At the time, Tallon lived in a development called the Country Club of South Carolina.

Also, more than $31,000 has been paid out of the campaign account in “reimbursements” to Tallon, while another $20,000 was paid to a son listed as his campaign treasurer.

Tallon told the Tampa, Fla., TV station WTSP that he kept the account open because he had considered making another run for office.

But, Tallon added, he now is 71 and retiring from consulting. “I need to give that money away at this point.”