Hart County Board of Commissioners

August 14th, 2000

Called Meeting

5:30 p.m.




The Hart County Board of Commissioners met August 14th, 2000 at 5:30 p.m. in the Hart County Administrative & Emergency Services Center.


Chairman Joel Moore presided with Commissioners Ken Brown, Don Burdick, Harry Hannah and R. C. Oglesby in attendance. Commissioner Oglesby left the meeting early.


Chairman Moore called the meeting to order, welcomed those in attendance and paused for a moment of silence.


New Business

1.         Second Reading of Proposed Arcade Ordinance

2.                  Public Hearing on Proposed Arcade Ordinance

3.                  County Medical Insurance


Chairman Moore announced the meeting was called for the second reading of the purposed Arcade Ordinance. He also stated they would be obtaining evidence from the public pertaining to video poker. The meeting was turned over to County Attorney Walter Gordon.


1.         County Attorney Gordon remarked that gambling and payouts are illegal in the State of Georgia. He reported the county could not impose a local tax on the video poker machines. He said that it is interesting and irrevelant that most of the video arcades in the county are where they would not be allowed if the county had passed the zoning ordinance.


Attorney Gordon remarked that a video arcade ordinance will cost the county to enforce it. He explained the contents of the video arcade ordinance that will provide for regulation and registration of bona fide coin-operated amusement machines; to provide for licensing and regulation of amusement machine arcades; to provide for codification; to provide severability; to provide penalties, and to provide for other lawful purposes. After Attorney Gordon explained the context of the ordinance he said it would conclude the second reading of it.


Commissioner Oglesby voiced his concern of the distance requirements in the ordinance from regular school bus stops. Attorney Gordon stated since bus stops change from year to year it would be difficult to enforce. Commissioner Oglesby also voiced his concern about the distance requirements of any establishment holding a license for the sale of alcoholic beverages on premise consumption.


Commissioner Burdick instructed Attorney Gordon to look into the distance requirements for school bus stops and on premise consumption of alcoholic beverages. He questioned whether existing establishments would be grandfathered in.


2.         Arch Adams of the Stop Video Poker Committee introduced Mike Goodman of the Edenfield County S.C. Sheriff's Department.


Mr. Goodman reported that the Edenfield County Sheriff's Department increased their staff during the time video poker machines were legal in South Carolina. He said the county was known as "little Los Vegas". He reported that armed robberies tripled, there was an increase in fraudulent check writing, and there was an increased drug use. He also remarked that the Sheriff's office became a collection agency for the video poker industry. His final remarks was "thank goodness their headache is gone" and he pitied Hart County.


Chairman Moore questioned Mr. Goodman if Edenfield County had any murders or suicides that were in connection to video poker. Mr. Goodman responded they did not. Chairman Moore also questioned if he saw an increase in underage addiction to video poker. Mr. Goodman responded they did not have any reports of underage addiction. He said most of the people that came to Edenfield County to play video poker were from N. Augusta, Georgia.


Commissioner Burdick asked Mr. Goodman if he could give an example on the impact video poker had on family life. Mr. Goodman did not have any information pertaining to the impact gambling had on families in Edenfield County.


Attorney Gordon asked Mr. Goodman if he has seen a drop in the crime rate since the video industry is no longer in South Carolina. Mr. Goodman responded they have seen a decrease.


Commissioner Hannah asked if the county was responsible for monitoring video poker. Mr. Goodman responded it was controlled by SLED.


Local Attorney Eugene Harper remarked that "gambling is a cancer" and it will take major surgery to stop the growth or it will destroy Hart County. He recommended the board take action now to stop the cancer. He said it is clear that gambling is connected to organized crime and no one is doing anything about it. He also remarked there needs to be a change in the State Law pertaining to video gambling.


Kevin Heaton showed a video of a News Channel 5 report of legislation introduced by Representative Alan Powell, which allegedly softens restrictions on video gambling machines.


Afterwards Attorney Harper remarked that the Legislature has done us in.  He said we do not need to turn Hart County into another Los Vegas.


Kevin Heaton showed another portion of the video where he and Arch Adams interviewed Sheriff Bryant of Rock Hill, S.C. According to Sheriff Bryant the county he represented had the second largest number of video machines in the state. He said one machine could gross $12,000 in a twenty four-hour period. He reported individuals lost their automobiles to indebtedness to the video establishments. He said they experienced an increase in theft, divorce, economic problems, foreclosures, and domestic violence and had an average of eight hundred to one thousand fraudulent checks per month. He said video poker draws organized crime and they had three murder cases that were directly associated with gambling. He also remarked that the gambling machines make three or four people very rich but the odds are somebody wins, somebody loses including the community.


Sheriff Bryant ended by stating he felt sorry for the law enforcement in the community and that video poker is worse than drugs.


Sandy Johnson of Rock Hill S. C. gave a personal testimony of the affects of gambling in her family. Ms. Johnson said her youngest son had an addiction to video gambling and cost them $107,000 last year to keep him out of prison, therapy and to pay off bookies.


Rev. Terry Meeks gave a testimony of a Hart County resident that lost his home and family attributed to gambling. He recommended that the ordinance not allow ATM machines in the video arcade establishments or that they not be allowed to hold checks from individuals.


Rev. Meeks asked if there were any teeth in the ordinance and if someone were caught in violation of the ordinance would they lose their license permanently. He felt that a monster is being created and the county needs to have an ordinance that will stop it. He was also concerned about current establishments being grandfathered in.


Chairman Moore stated the county has to work under the umbrella of the State of Georgia laws pertaining to the video poker machines.


Rev. Hulan Bryant reported there are eleven establishments in a three-mile stretch on 29N. He presented evidence from a congressional study linking gambling to organized crime and stated there is great danger associated with illegal gambling. He said four children were left in a mini-van for a period of time while the parent was inside a gambling establishment. He also said his sister-in-law works in a psychiatric hospital in South Carolina and they have a patient in the ward due to the affects of gambling. He submitted to the board to adopt a strong resolution tonight to abolish video poker all together.


Commissioner Hannah said the county would have the responsibility to enforce the ordinance.


Tracy Draper representing South Carolina SLED unit reported they had six full time agents assigned to investigate video poker establishments. It said it takes a lot of time and evidence to support a conviction. He explained it is all undercover work.


Ben Fant testified that his younger brother is addicted to gambling and that he has lost his business, experienced bankruptcy and divorce. He said he has to live with the consequence of teaching his brother to play poker at an early age. He remarked that with problems associated with gambling why would the ordinance be called an amusement license. He suggested the board consider another angle to attack the industry, if it is a game of chance that the industry return ninety percent of the intake to the player, and the machine must be set to keep no more than ten percent of the intake as a profit. He said if the county does this every border town in the State would probably be interested in the same thing. He ended that it would be nice if an ordinance could be patterned after Hart County instead of Columbia County.


Frank Esposito reported that at one of the video gaming facilities on 29N they advertise quick cash and he knows of someone receiving $900 in cash payoff.


Doris Emmel testified that her sister-in-law has a gambling problem and agrees that gambling is a cancer that will affect families.


John Lewis said we need to "get back to the Book" and he had rather have God's blessings on the county instead of gambling, which is a curse.


Representative Alan Powell said everyone is exactly right, gambling is illegal in the State of Georgia. He said he is taking his duty very serious and he does not uphold gambling. He remarked that legislation was passed to make it more strenuous for violations pertaining to video arcades. He advised the board to enforce the law that is on the State books. He suggested the commissioners pass a simple and clean ordinance, immediately enact a moratorium, suspend violator's license and enforce a fine of $5,000. He explained the law requires fifty percent of an establishment's income be derived from other sources rather than video poker. 


Representative Powell said there are "false prophets at every turn". He suggested citizens call law enforcement or make a citizen's arrest for video poker violators.


Arch Adams questioned Representative Powell if a moratorium would help existing establishments. Representative Powell responded that existing establishment could be dealt with. Arch continued to quiz Representative Powell if he voted in 1999 to take away local government's power to regulate video poker establishments. He responded that he probably did.


Arch Adams also asked Representative Powell if he owns video poker machines and is he partners with Billy Milford. Representative Powell said the video poker machines in his store have been disconnected and he is not in partnership with Mr. Milford.


Representative Powell remarked that some people have private agendas and there is a prophet on every corner. He suggested that if the county wants to enforce the laws that are on the books they have the enforcement powers, however individuals couldn't afford to be charged with commercial gambling.


Chairman Moore said he has wrestled with the video poker problem and since State law removed the counties regulatory capability he requested Representative Powell repeal the law and give regulatory powers back to the counties.


Kevin Heaton asked if the board is going to vote on the issue. Chairman Moore explained this was the second reading of the ordinance and the board will review the contents.


Rev. Bryant asked why the proposed ordinance has changed some since he received a copy last week. County Attorney Gordon explained the ordinance is like a draft of sermons, which can be a little different each time it is reviewed.


Peggy Adams asked if the board would consider the next public meeting be held in a larger facility. Chairman Moore remarked the board has met the requirements needed for a public hearing and sees no need to have another hearing on the matter.


Arch Adams questioned the requirement of three video machines in a room, and then an establishment could break the facility down into rooms and have many. Chairman Moore said the video machines would have to be in plan view.


Commissioner Hannah said the county does not have any ability to license video poker machines and it is a very complex issue. He added the commissioners are doing the best job they can do and can only act in the degree they are capable to act.


John McDowell remarked that he played video poker machines at one time and does not want Sardis, Hartwell and Hart County to be a gypsy strip. He questioned if gambling is legal or not, and does the county want it to be legal or not.


3.         County Medical Insurance


County Administrator Gary Cobb reported the county has received the renewal rate for medical insurance for county employees at a much higher percentage increase than anticipated.


Commissioner Brown entered a motion to allow the County Administrator to seek bids for medical insurance coverage. Commissioner Hannah provided a second to the motion. The motion carried unanimously.


Commissioner Brown entered a motion to adjourn the meeting. Commissioner Hannah provided a second to the motion. The motion carried unanimously.




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Joel Moore, Chairman                            Lawana Kahn, County Clerk