State Senators held a public hearing this evening about two bills proposed by Senate leader Glenn McConnell (R-S.C.). One would make charity casino nights legal. The other would put a measure on the ballot to legalize charity raffles.

The first bill would also correct the state’s antiquated gaming laws, which, when conservatively interpreted, would outlaw board games and Old Maid.

Local radio hots Richard Todd has been fighting the ban on charity poker games for a few years now. Attention increased on the issue after two high-profile local gambling busts — one in Hanahan and one in Mt. Pleasant.

• Poker players were out in force. Several tried to downplay the money they can make at the games and joked about being lawbreakers. But the proposed bill will not allow poker games if the house is making any money. It wouldn’t be surprising if the number of players are limited in modifications to the bill to make it more difficult to work around this part.

• And getting house games might be the easy part. Religious folks showed up at the public hearing, claiming the bill’s proposal for charity casino nights was opening a window to letting the gaming industry back into South Carolina. It’s a charge that could easily sideline this bill, particularly for Upstate legislators.

Raffles may be a longer fight, but it’s got more potential. The raffle resolution will require approval by voters in November 2010. It could take longer to get there, but the individual voter doesn’t have constiuents to worry about. It will be the biggest challenge to religious groups. Especially considering how much these groups cross paths with the relatively harmless word of raffles — more often than video poker machines.