Last March, this website endorsed expanding casino gambling along the South Carolina coast based on the belief that it would dramatically enhance the competitiveness of our state’s tourism industry – without relying on government-run scams like the infamous “Coastal Kickback” to do it.

We still feel that way … and we believe that every year in which state lawmakers fail to take up this issue is another year that they neglect to seize a rare competitive advantage.

Anyway, we indicated at the time that we would consider extending our support beyond casino gambling on the coast based on “whether we believe other expanded gambling proposals provide clear benefits to South Carolina taxpayers – and by extension our state’s economy.”

Make no mistake, our strong bias in almost every case will be to strongly support such enterprises.

Why? Because we believe in the primacy of the free market. And more specifically, we do not believe that the State of South Carolina should be allowed to maintain its monopoly on gambling (which it currently enjoys via the S.C. “Education” Lottery).

Seriously … just look at our state’s virtual monopoly on K-12 education.

Anyway, in assessing the merits of a proposed Jasper County casino resort, a mainstream media outlet in Hilton Head Island, S.C. is urging a broader discussion of these issues.

“The recent emergence of gambling issues on several fronts says it’s time again for a full-throated debate on this subject, especially given South Carolina’s history on gambling and its statutory ban against most forms of it, including friendly poker games and church raffles,” the editorial board at The Hilton Head Island Packet wrote.

As for the proposed casino resort in Hardeeville, we’ve only written on it once – and don’t pretend to know all the details.

We do know this, though … the project’s developers aren’t asking for a dime of South Carolinians’ tax money to build this facility, and the vast majority of its traffic would come from out-of-state residents. Those are two pretty compelling points in our book.

“The casino could prove to be an economic boon to Jasper County, but it should be looked at in the context of gambling as a whole in South Carolina and not as one isolated event,” the Packet‘s editorial board concluded.

We agree.

South Carolina needs – and its citizens deserve – a debate on the larger gambling issue. More importantly, we need our leaders to figure out how this state – which is chronically beset by high unemployment and low income levels – can turn turn things around using the advantages we have at our disposal.

Is lifting government’s monopoly on gambling a “silver bullet?” A reform that will magically reduce our unemployment rate and raise income levels? Not necessarily … but it is clearly one reform that (working in concert with others) could help begin that process.

For too long in this state, we have permitted government-run bureaucracies and anti-competitive statutes to compound a climate of failure. Now we must figure out a way to let private sector opportunities and pro-growth reforms create a climate of prosperity.  If we’re able to do that … South Carolina stands a chance. If we don’t, we will continue to be the laughing stock of the country.