About a week ago we got our dirty little fingers on a poll we probably shouldn’t have seen … one raising the issue of gambling in South Carolina.

What did it say?  Well, that’s proprietary … but we can say the issue appears to be gaining momentum in the Palmetto State.  Not only that, there are certain critical demographics which become more receptive to the issue if it’s framed the right way.

But that’s not the point of this post …

Regular readers of FITS are well aware of our position on this issue: We favor breaking up state government’s corrupt monopoly and opening the door to expanded gaming run by the private sector.  We’re particularly supportive of allowing casinos on the South Carolina coast – and other locations capable of generating out-of-state business.

South Carolina’s leaders?  They’re not so hip to the idea – especially Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham.

Anyway … we’ve long said South Carolina’s coast (in particular its Grand Strand) has everything it needs to become the next Las Vegas or Atlantic City.  Well … everything except politicians with the economic vision, free market allegiance and testicular fortitude to push such a plan.

In the Palmetto State, our leaders have a terrible habit of saying “no” to anything that could conceivably break their stranglehold on power.  As a result, instead of glitter and glam the Grand Strand has violence and pollution.

That has to change … now.

Why do we say that? Because despite its chronic problems, opportunity is still knocking at South Carolina’s door.

Las Vegas is in deep trouble – the victim of a devastating multi-year drought that’s slowly depriving the nation’s gambling capital of its water supply.

“The situation is as bad as you can imagine,” climate scientist Tim Barnett said in a story published by The (U.K.) Telegraph. “It’s just going to be screwed.  And relatively quickly.  Unless it can find a way to get more water from somewhere Las Vegas is out of business.  Yet they’re still building, which is stupid.”

Vegas’ problem?  Ninety percent of its water comes from Lake Mead, which has been drained of four trillion gallons of water over the years.

Here’s a NASA satellite image of the lake from 1985 …

(Click to enlarge)

lake mead 1985

(Pic: NASA)

And here’s the same terrain photographed in 2010 …

(Click to enlarge)

lake mead 2010

(Pic: NASA)

Talk about a metaphor for the country, right?  “Tapped out.”  In fact by 2036, the lake will be dry …

Vegas’ loss could be South Carolina’s gain, though … in fact it would  be our gain if state leaders had followed our advice and legalized casino gambling on the coast.

Four years ago, this website called for precisely such a show of leadership.

“We have a tremendous competitive advantage staring us in the face,” we wrote at the time.  “Think about it. Myrtle Beach could become the next Las Vegas – except with an ocean.  We’re talking thousands of new jobs, billions of dollars worth of new investment and yes … a new revenue stream for government (although we would propose using this money to provide long-overdue tax relief as opposed to spending it on state and local governments that are already too big).”

In the intervening years we’ve toyed with our own ideas to capitalize on such a bold move …

Unfortunately, there is no vision, no free market allegiance and no fortitude to be found anywhere in South Carolina’s government … and as a result the Palmetto State continues to let this tremendous advantage go to waste.

What’s that sound, South Carolina?

It’s a prosperous future … passing you by.  Again.