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Senate Committee Approves Video Poker Ban

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Senate committee quickly and unanimously approved a ban on video poker Wednesday, preparing the chamber to outlaw the industry for the fifth time since 2000.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said the bill, which faced no debate and only sarcastic discussion in a hearing, would have a floor vote Thursday.

"As usual, we've got a lot of support for this," said Sen. Charles Albertson, D-Duplin, the bill's sponsor.

In past years, Albertson's efforts to ban video gaming have picked up overwhelming support in the Senate, only to encounter opposition from House leaders, specifically Speaker Jim Black.

The Democratic leader from Mecklenburg was the Legislature's top recipient of industry contributions during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles. He has refused to bring the issue up for a vote, insisting that video poker generates thousands of jobs through a legal business.

But Black now is embroiled in a campaign contribution investigation and facing increased pressure to pass the measure.

"Hopefully they'll take a vote in the House," Albertson said. "There are a lot of anxious members over there."

"I have a feeling that it has a better chance to pass this year," he said.

Black hasn't said whether he will allow a vote this session. He backed a bill in 2004 designed to further regulate the machines.

The State Board of Elections has ordered Black's campaign to return $5,500 in likely illegal donations from the video poker industry, but cleared him of knowingly accepting unlawful contributions.

While he has not been charged with any crimes, a federal grand jury also has sought information about Black's connections to the industry.

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