Expert Predicts South Carolina Sports Betting Will be Legalized—But Not Anytime Soon

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jul 31, 2023 12:00 AM
South Carolina sports betting may still be years away.

We have some good news for anyone who wants sports betting in South Carolina to finally get legalized. At least one expert believes it will happen. However, we also have some bad news. The expert does not see South Carolina sports betting receiving the stamp of approval anytime.

Lamaur Stancil of The Post and Courier recently published an extensive and excellent piece on the future of sports gambling in South Carolina. As part of it, he spoke with Stephen Shapiro, a professor from the University of South Carolina in the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management. Their conversation was illuminating—for people on both sides of the sports betting fence. As Stancil wrote:

[[Shapiro] predicts South Carolina will eventually have legalized sports gambling, though it may be one of the last states to do so. The state is led by Gov. Henry McMaster, who campaigned against the concept in his election last year and has long said that gambling is at odds with South Carolina values. 'There’s political opposition to gambling here, with it being a more conservative state,' Shapiro said. 'That’s not going to change.”'

The idea that South Carolina could be one of the last states to legalize sports betting won't sit well with the vast amount of people who have been clamoring for it ever since the United States Supreme Court in 2018 overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Still, Shapiro's assessment jibes with the challenges many ultra-conservative states have faced.

Sure, some "redder" places in the United States have already legalized some form of sports betting. In many cases, though, it has taken a shift in political ideology to get the job done. (Think: Sports betting in Ohio.) In places that have legalized sports gambling without a political power transfer, the approval has often come with limited accessibility. Take sports betting in Florida (which is legal again, albeit not active). Though you can technically place in-person wagers, you're still not allowed to bet with the top online sportsbooks in the United States.

Why has South Carolina so far resisted green lighting any forms of sports betting? And what might be the impetus for them finally joining the 30-plus states that have legalized sports gambling? Stancil's piece provided us with potential answers to both questions.

Sports Betting Continues to be a 'Hard Sell' to South Carolina Policymakers

Governor McMaster, who was recently re-elected, has become the face for sports betting opposition in South Carolina. And that makes sense. But he by no means has to stand alone.

As Stancil pointed out in his piece, sports betting remains a "hard sell" to lawmakers. The Senate, specifically, still skews ultra-conservative. That's largely why barely any forms of gambling have been legalized inside the state.

To date, the only approved forms of gambling are the South Carolina Education Lottery and charity raffles. Mind you, the former required a great deal of effort to pass in 2000. These restrictions give you a great, if not exact, idea of how sports betting is viewed throughout the Senate.

Still, in recent years, multiple polls have shown South Carolina residents are more open to sports betting—both in-person gambling and online wagering. The preferences of constituents should matter, and if the dialogue that has taken place in the House of Representatives more recently is any indication, they absolutely do.

Beyond that, though, there's another that could shape the timeline for sports betting South Carolina. And it doesn't really have anything to do with South Carolina themselves. It's more about what just happened in North Carolina.

Does North Carolina Hold the Key to South Carolina Sports Betting?

As Shapiro explained to Stancil, he believes North Carolina's new gaming policies could prompt South Carolina to reconsider their own. After numerous attempts, as well as installments of more liberal policymakers in certain offices, online sports betting in North Carolina is now legal and set to launch in early 2024. Shapiro believes this development—specifically the decision to allow mobile wagering and not just in-person gambling—absolutely matters.

"The fact that if you are in Fort Mill, obviously, it’d be easy to go to Charlotte, to one of the retail sites at a stadium during a game, or the Charlotte Motor Speedway,” he explained. “But the fact that it’s mobile as well allows you to go to any part of North Carolina and be able to gamble by just driving across the state line.”

South Carolina will invariably see potential revenue fly out the door as residents capitalize on the neighboring North Carolina's new laws. That might resonate with policymakers—even those who remain obstinately against the act of gambling. Seeing a neighboring state legally profit off your market has a way of inspiring new stances. It's different than if people are betting off-shore. That takes extra effort and, for the most part, cannot be monitored.

Whether South Carolina will actually change their tune remains to be seen. McMaster will likely remain a massive roadblock while he's in office. At the same time, numerous South Carolina sports betting bills made it through committees in the House of Representatives. One was even passed by the House this year.

For now, though, the Senate has yet to follow the House's lead. They didn't even take up a vote for the bill that made it through. Could this change next year? Nobody knows for sure. But we do know the future of South Carolina sports betting depends on it.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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