LIBERTY — After receiving word from the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office that South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) would shut down an upcoming Riverboat Casino themed fundraiser, Meals on Wheels had no choice but to alter their plans.
According to Meta Bowers, executive director of PCMOW, the organization was alerted by Sheriff Rick Clark that SLED had “concerns” with the legality of the Riverboat Casino Night fundraiser.
“Specifically, on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, PCMOW was informed by the Pickens County Sherriff’s Office that SLED would shut the event down if PCMOW moved forward as advertised,” Bowers said. “PCMOW officials spent the week attempting to resolve the matter.”
Bowers said they consulted with Attorney Les Hendricks of Carolina Law and Mediation in an attempt to find a way to still hold the event. He met with the Sheriff to determine exactly what issue SLED might have with the event.
“What happened was a person — I may never know who — contacted SLED directly and complained about our fundraiser,” she said. “Rick (Clark) then came to me and broke the news.”
The Sheriff then presented an opinion that his office had requested from the S.C. Attorney General which held the opinion that the Casino Night was in fact illegal, Bowers said.
“There’s a lot of legalities involved, but these fundraisers are held all the time,” she said. “I have a list of about 10 that were held this year alone.”
Bowers said the AG’s opinion was “unfortunate” and has put PCMOW in a difficult position, given the agency’s financial woes that have occurred this year.
Previously, The Sentinel-Progress reported on over $21,000 worth of unexpected expenditures PCMOW ran into in 2017 due to equipment failures and maintenance issues.
Among other things the agency had to deal with a broken elevator, HVAC unit, a delivery van and several pieces of industrial kitchen equipment.
Following the visit from Clark, PCMOW attorney Hendricks contacted SLED and the Attorney General.
“Casino Night charitable fundraisers frequently take place across the state without any restriction from state law enforcement,” said Bowers. “The PCMOW Riverboat Casino Night was structured exactly as required by S.C. Code 33-57-100 (C) (2) which says: ‘No person shall conduct a fundraising event commonly known and operated as a ‘casino night,’ ‘Las Vegas night,’ or ‘Monte Carlo night’ involving live individuals playing roulette, blackjack, baccarat, or other card games, or dice games, unless the event is conducted only for entertainment purposes and no prizes, financial rewards, or incentives are received by players.’”
The Riverboat Casino Night had no prizes, Bowers said. But the AG disagrees stating that even if no tangible prize is given, that if there is “the betting of chips in poker, roulette, or similar games of chance that allow a person to continue playing if they win” that such an event still violates the law.
They were stuck.
“This was going to be our biggest fundraiser of the year, but what are we going to do? Take on the Attorney General? No good will come of that,” Bowers said.
While it is the legal opinion of Hendricks that PCMOW would win this argument in the court of law, it was also his advice that pursuing a legal battle would most likely not win in the court of public opinion and over the long-run be detrimental to the reputation of the organization.
“I want to be clear, Meals on Wheels does not condone gambling, that’s not what this was about,” said Bowers. “This was supposed to be a fun night where people come come out and play some games and help us raise money.”
At PCMOW’s request, several members of the Pickens County Legislative Delegation formally requested the Attorney General to review its opinion of the event with accurate and specific facts as to how PCMOW will run the Riverboat Casino Night.
Unfortunately, they hit the same wall.
“Like it or not, these are the cards that have been dealt,” said Bowers.
In lieu of the Casino Night on Nov. 4, PCMOW will host an online raffle and silent auction. The auction will be launched on Saturday Nov. 4, 2017. with more details be forthcoming.
For more information on how you can still help, visit www.pcmow.org and the PCMOW Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Pickens-County-Meals-on-Wheels-99942029763/.
“Every day is a gamble with Meals on Wheels, we depend on the community’s support and generosity to help us,” said Bowers. “Unfortunately, with this decision, the only people who have been hurt are the seniors of Pickens County.”