Initial approval was granted on Wednesday evening to a casino boat package in Charleston, South Carolina, that would allow gambling boats to sail out of the Cooper River. The measure appears to have the six votes necessary to pass the package with a majority, which means that the gambling boats could begin operating out of the Cooper River waterfront as early as this coming winter, providing all necessary changes to the city code are made in a timely manner.
Charleston Mayor Keith Summey has maintained that the gambling boats would not lead the city or state down a slippery slope into the vices of gambling, but rather, they will serve as a positive part of the Charleston landscape. He pointed out, during a council committee meeting, that the state of South Carolina already backs certain gambling games by running a state lottery. Operating the gambling boats will only affect Charleston in positive ways, because they will be able to claim some of the gambling money that is circulated through fees, taxes, and charges that boat operators will have to pay.
Councilman Bobby Jameson opposed the casino boat package, suggesting that the proposal be delayed for a year, at which time a city-wide vote would be taken after the council members and city residents have had the time to be properly educated on the impact the gambling boat cruises may have on the local area.
It has not yet been decided how exactly Charleston will generate income from the gambling boat cruises, but two different methods have been proposed. In the first proposal, gambling boat owners will be required to pay 10% of the face amount of each ticket sold, plus 5% on gross proceeds of each boat. The other proposed method would require boat owners to pay a flat rate of $7 per passenger.
A number of casino games would be offered on the gambling cruises, including slots, blackjack, and poker, as well as dining and entertainment for passengers offshore. The gambling would begin after the boats had passed a point outside the harbor past South Carolina’s territorial limits. It is estimated that the gambling boat operation could result in annual revenues of $700,00 for Charleston, money that would go into the city’s general fund and would not be allocated toward any particular purpose.
Currently, gambling cruises in South Carolina are operated out of Little River, an area north of Myrtle Beach.
A public hearing on the issue is the next step in the process of granting permission to the casino boats, and will probably take place next month.