In the biggest rollback of legalized gambling in U.S. history, South Carolina will pull the plug on more than 22,000 video gambling machines at midnight Friday.
The gambling industry dominated South Carolina for more than a decade, helping to topple a governor and having its way with the courts and politicians before the Legislature voted last year to end video gambling by July 1 unless voters decided to keep the machines.
Last fall, the state Supreme Court ruled that a referendum would be unconstitutional but left the ban in place.
The number of machines licensed in South Carolina peaked in 1999 at nearly 37,000, with $3 billion in annual revenue, according to the state Revenue Department.
The shutdown is the biggest rollback of legal gambling in U.S. history, said Bill Thompson, a gambling expert and professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. A year ago, Louisiana shut down nearly 5,000 of the state's 15,000 video gambling machines after 33 parishes banned the games.
In South Carolina in 1998, then-Gov. David Beasley, a Republican, declared war on video gambling. He called it the "crack cocaine of gambling" and seized on the death of a 10-day-old baby who was left in a hot car while her mother gambled.