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The Late Terry Haskins Spared Many from Misery

Editor’s Note: In this space Carl Langley will from time to time bring you stories about South Carolinians who made our state a better place to live. The first of these articles, which appeared in the third of Langley's books, focuses on Rep. Terry Haskins who successfully fought video poker in the late 1990's while suffering with an illness that eventually took his life.

By: Carl Langley
EdgefieldDaily.com Guest Columnist

web posted July 24, 2007
GUEST COLUMN – There is joy in our land these days. Video poker, the beast that at one time looked like it would not die, is on life support and fading fast. Which means that the profiteers of this long-running scandal, once sheltered by the Duke of Clarendon and his not-so Merry Men in our state legislature, soon may have to find honest work.

Imagine that?

How sweet it is!

Is it not wonderful that poker lackeys Glenn McConnell, Ernie Passailaigue and Robert Ford, after disgracing their oaths to protect the people of this state, now find themselves acting as hospice nurses for this moribund business?

Let us bow this morning to the ingenuity of Rep. Terry Haskins and the wisdom of our Supreme Court which stood up for the people while many elected to represent us took to cover in the tall grass.

It was Haskins who wrote the amendment to poker legislation that called for its banishment if the court ruled against a referendum on the games.

The Supreme Court, in unanimity I add, did just as Haskins expected. The court told the cowards in our legislature to enact our laws and not hand untidy things over to the people.

There are few Medal of Honor winners in the General Assembly, but Haskins is a brave and fearless warrior who served the people well. The good people of our state always long and look for a patriot to appear and spare them from the bondage that others support.

However, a word of caution must be sounded for celebration at this hour would be a bit premature. The real chore awaits us. We must now be on full alert status because those who profit off the miseries of others aren’t going quietly. There will be plotting and scheming, there will be dirty work afoot. Their hope for salvation of their evil business ranges from a shameless ploy for sympathy to more legal outrages certain to be filed in the courts.

Let us consider some matters of the moment, mainly the lies that are being circulated by the supporters of the video poker games. We shall see if their siren song lures enough legislators into blindly voting for the electronic games in which players have virtually no chance of winning anything.

Barry Hull, chairman of a hastily contrived organization called the South Carolina Alliance for Small Business, has been sending out mailings decrying the pending loss of what poker chieftains call one of this state’s biggest industries.

Their claim about gambling being an industry is lie No. 1.

Video poker is not an industry. It is a game of chance with all the evils attendant. An industry makes things that are generally beneficial to consumers, provides profit for the manufacturer and stockholders, offers convenience for the buyer and honest jobs for everyone.

Video poker, to put it bluntly, is a rigged game that survives only by plundering the pockets of the intellectually malnourished or those addicted to the turn of cards. Its product is the false hope of making millions which degenerates into shattered dreams.

In his search for sympathy Hull is surfing the media waves, using self pity for his surfboard while wailing that wiping out video poker will close many small stores, or what he calls family businesses that depend on poker games to keep their doors open.

That is lie No. 2.

Hull doesn’t tell us that many small stores were opened only to grab a share of a growing population of video poker addicts. The alliance of small business is nothing more than a cover organization for the gambling bosses of this state, who, for too long, have enjoyed the rotten fruits taken from their addicted customers.

Hull is running about saying the sky has started falling and the state will face economic ruin if video poker is abolished and businesses have to close. He says the job losses are at a trickle now but will become a floodtide washing us into a depression.

That is lie No. 3.

The federal government closed the huge Charleston naval shipyard and the Savannah River Site laid off thousands of workers, the tobacco industry fell apart and cotton lands were plowed under for residential development and we kept on going. They certainly were more important to us than a couple of hundred small shops that were nothing more than betting parlors.

I had planned to toss Hull’s tripe into the waste bin, but, out of curiosity, I began reading. I must confess to being a bit perplexed by one paragraph. It laments the fact that lawyers and public relations people will be among those in the soup lines.

Hulls weeping over lawyers losing their jobs and media flacks going on the dole did not provoke any sympathy from me. If he means the lawyers representing the gambling bosses and the public relations shills who tell us how wonderful they are, let us heat up the cooking stoves.

Video poker lawyers are not the cuddly creatures found in books written for children. They have sharp teeth and are prone to bite at the slightest provocation if anti-gambling legislation is filed or lawsuits by families of poker’s lost souls hit the courts.

Media flacks can be mean and miserly, too, and they flee before the truth faster than Dracula takes to his resting place before the dawn. With regret, I confirm that many of them have come from the ranks of my profession. But I take comfort in the fact that most of them would be drummed out of any respectable newsroom in this country.

Hull’s news releases were meant to elicit sympathy but became vibrant testimony to the hypocrisy of the video poker gang. I call it hypocrisy because of the crocodile tears he sheds for one of the gamblers’ workers.

Hull said shutting down video poker will cost a young mother, whose name I withhold, $20,000 a year plus health care benefits. He said the soon-to-be-jobless one can’t go to her mother for help because the mother also was being let go by the company.

The story would be quite sad except for the fact that it is a blatant effort to gain sympathy from the public while condemning the many good people who oppose video poker because of what it is - a social cancer.

I reject Hull’s bid for sympathy and deny his charge that hundreds of thousands like me are being mean spirited. On the contrary, we care for our citizens and want them spared from this evil. We want them to have good jobs and secure futures. We don’t want video poker bosses raking in the big bucks while people gamble away money that should support households.

In closing, let me suggest that Hull and his crowd tell the whole truth. He has told us about the stores that will close, the cost to the economy in cash flow, the poor mother losing a job paying $400 a week, the taxes lost to local government, the educational scholarships lost, the bankruptcies sure to follow.

But will he tell us how much it is going to cost the gambling tycoons if video poker is outlawed. The high rollers are building mansions in the mountains and villas on coastal islands on their foul profits. One has even used his riches to buy a plantation near Charleston.

Will Hull tell us the cost to the kingpins if video poker is shut down, or can he even count that high?

(Terry Haskins, a brave and courageous man, died of cancer in October 2000 after winning his valiant battle against video poker.)


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