2023 South Carolina Sports Betting Bill Faces Familiar Challenges

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
2023 South Carolina Sports Betting Bill Faces Familiar Challenges

There is both good news and bad news to report on the South Carolina sports betting front.

Let's begin with the good news: A bill that would legalize sports betting in South Carolina is officially under legislative deliberation. The initiative, House Bill 3749, appeared before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Revenue Policy on March 31, according to Legal Sports Report's Sam McQuillan. The details of H.B. 3749 are pretty wide-ranging; they look to install a fairly open sports-betting market.

However, the terms of this proposal might not matter. And that brings us to the bad news: The 2023 South Carolina sports betting bill faces an uphill battle—familiar challenges that have derailed pro-gambling movements of the past. Many think the measure will fail to clear these roadblocks. Especially one of the issues in particular.

What are these obstacles? What are the exact parameters of H.B. 3749? And ultimately, what will be the fate of sports betting throughout South Carolina when the state's legislative process ends?

Details of 2023 South Carolina Sports Betting Bill Emerge

The newest South Carolina sports betting proposal borrows pages from many other states who have already legalized betting. We have parsed the details that HB 3749's sponsor, Representative Christopher Murray, provided to the House Ways and Mean Subcommittee and plucked out the most important tidbits:

  • HB 3749 would legalize both on-site and online sports betting in South Carolina.
  • Eight of the top online sportsbooks would receive licenses to operate inside the state.
  • Two of these eight licenses would be guaranteed to the official NASCAR sports betting app and PGA Tour sports betting app.
  • Contrary to other states, South Carolina would allow in-state college sports betting as part of HB 3749.
  • Each sports betting operator would pay $50,000 to apply for a license and an additional $450,000 should they receive one, according to Legal Sports Report. (The initial $50,000 fee will be refunded if an application gets rejected.)
  • Sports betting operators would pay a 10 percent tax on all gambling revenue; this is believed to be a flat rate and will not be increased for online sports betting operators, as other states have done.
  • All sports betting revenue will be split among three areas: 80 percent will go towards a general fund; 15 percent will go to local governments; and the final 5 percent will go to a problem gambling fund.
  • The legal gambling age in South Carolina would be set at 18-and-older.

That last note is a biggie. Most other states have set their legal gambling age at 21. That is believed to be a sticking point among policymakers—especially conservatives. States have long been concerned about sports betting companies having too much access to college-aged customers (and younger). A legal sports betting age of 18 could pave the way for business being done on college campuses. Granted, South Carolina can always make addendums that addresses these concerns. The 5 percent HB 3749 would commit to a problem gambling fund is also more than double the standard 2 percent many other states have settled on.

Regardless, with so many finer points hashed out, you can tell that certain South Carolina lawmakers are serious about the legalization of sports gambling. You don't get to the stages of tax-revenue breakdowns without having real support and momentum. But will their efforts be successful?

The Biggest Hurdle Facing Gambling in South Carolina

To be clear, there is more than one obstacle that stands between South Carolina and sports betting legalization. The introduction of HB 3749 to the House Ways and Mean Subcommittee is among the very first steps in the legislative process. The bill still has to clear a handful of other committees. It must then make it through the full House of Representatives and Senate.

Of course, we're getting ahead of the game here. Many don't think the latest South Carolina sports betting bill will make it that far. The reason? South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.

The state's republican governor has been among the loudest opponents of legal sports betting. McMaster's hardline stance against gambling was the foundation of his re-election campaign this past fall—a bid that he won. 

One person technically cannot derail an entire bill. That's why there are so many committees. In this case, though, the South Carolina sports betting bill must make it past McMaster's desk before being put to a larger vote. Basically, without his support, HB 3749 won't ever make it to the floors of the House of Representatives or Senate. 

Does South Carolina Sports Betting Have Any Hope of Passing in 2023?

Optimists have long hoped Governor McMaster would change his tune on sports betting. If the bill has enough support among lawmakers, and if polls show voters support some form of legal gambling, surely he could warm up to the idea. Right?

For the time being, that doesn't appear likely.

McMaster continues to reiterate his vehement opposition to legal sports betting in South Carolina. It's not just his words, either. His actions have often spoken louder. No South Carolina sports betting bill has ever made it past the committee stages of deliberation. They have always died at or right before his desk. That is the kind of influence he carries and continues to have over state policy.

Around these parts, we're big fans of never saying never. Maybe this is the year McMaster softens his sports betting stance. Supporters of HB 3749 have also shown a willingness to negotiate. McMaster could try restructuring the bill so that the law is more in line with his moral code.

With all of that said, we strongly recommend South Carolinians don't hold their breath. Despite multiple attempts from lawmakers on both the Democratic and Republican sides in the past, Governor McMaster doesn't seem willing to budge. It would surprise us if he has an epiphany now.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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