Is There Any Chance South Carolina Sports Betting Gets Legalized in the Near Future?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jul 5, 2024 12:00 AM
As movement on the South Carolina sports betting front remains nonexistent, OSB tries to map out a realistic timeline for legalization.

Waiting for new developments on the future of South Carolina sports betting? Well, you’ll need to keep waiting. 

Mum continues to be the word on this front. Though bills have been proposed that would legalize sports betting in South Carolina, the issue is seldom discussed in detail among policymakers. In fact, it didn’t even register on the agenda during 2024 legislative meetings

This lack of interest from the Palmetto State, naturally, has many wondering whether they’ll ever green light sports wagering. It’s a fair question. South Carolina is now one of just 12 states that doesn’t have some form of sports betting. And while they may not be the least likely of the bunch to legalize it, they’re also not anywhere near the top of the list.

So, what gives? We know Governor Henry McMaster is a staunch opponent of sports gambling. But why? What, specifically, is derailing or delaying talks about sports wagering legalization? And above all, what’s a realistic timeline for South Carolina sports betting to be approved and subsequently rolled out?

Why is South Carolina Sports Betting So Far a No-Go for Officials?

A number of factors are standing between South Carolina sports betting and legalization. We already mentioned Governor McMaster’s position. But his opposition carries so much weight because of the laws already in place. As Bennet Conlin recently wrote for Sports Handle:

“South Carolina has some of the strictest gambling laws in the country. South Carolina doesn’t allow for horse racing, and there aren’t any land-based casinos in the state. The state does have a lottery and some riverboat casinos. Sports betting and online casino gaming are not permitted in South Carolina. While there have been efforts to legalize sports betting in South Carolina in recent years, they’ve barely moved. Current Gov. Henry McMaster, who has served as Governor since 2017, is anti-gambling expansion. His opponent in the 2022 gubernatorial race, Joe Cunningham, attempted to use a pro-sports betting platform to garner support. Cunningham’s challenge fell short, with McMaster earning another four-year term.

“‘They’re not good for us,” McMaster said to The State about Cunningham’s stances on legalizing sports betting and recreational marijuana. ‘They’re not good for people.’”

Those who support the legalization of South Carolina sports betting are quick to point out that McMaster and many opponents often speak in generalities. The root of their stances is somewhat known. They’re mostly tied to moral beliefs and socioeconomic concerns. But opponents often don’t expound upon their positions, in large part because extensive discussions never seem to take place. 

There has also been some disagreement over what legal sports betting could even look like. Even those open to it have expressed skepticism about allowing online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market.

North Carolina’s Legalization of Online Sports Betting Could Prompt Discussion in South Carolina

Many think the legalization of sports betting in North Carolina, South Carolina’s neighbor, could prompt the Palmetto State to reevaluate their position. It’s a position we have discussed in this space. After all, at the end of the day, the legalization of sports betting comes down to revenue for states. And currently, South Carolina is losing prospective sports betting revenue to North Carolina.

“I would imagine [North Carolina’s legalization] will speed up the process in South Carolina,” University of South Carolina Sports Management Professor Stephen Shapiro said in 2023 (via Conlin).

Whether this proves true will be a matter of course. Online sports betting in North Carolina went live in March 2024. Neighboring states such as South Carolina and Georgia will likely need to see a year or two of data before drawing any conclusion for their own markets.

And even then, nothing is guaranteed.

What’s a Realistic Timeline for South Carolina Sports Betting?

Given all of the information at our disposal, it’s difficult to pinpoint more than an approximate South Carolina sports betting timeline. And if we’re being honest, our estimation may skew longer term than many others.

Looking to North Carolina’s sports betting legalization as some lifeline feels misplaced. Opponents of South Carolina sports wagering might be intrigued by the Tar Heel State’s eventual revenue. But they will also be quick to note that North Carolina is a larger professional sports market overall. That argument rings hollow in the age of the internet. Sports fandom is accessible even to those who live in states without teams. Still, it’s a point anti-sports-bettors will make.

More than anything, though, the future of sports betting in South Carolina seems tied to McMaster. He has a couple of years left on his current term. And he may need to leave office before the state’s gaming laws change.

That’s not happening before 2026. And his exit doesn’t automatically translate to a more open dialogue. Voters will need to elect a successor who’s more on board with gambling expansion, if not an outright advocate of it. That by itself could be a long shot. Remember, voters re-elected McMaster while he was running on an aggressively anti-sports betting campaign.

For argument’s sake, let’s say a new governor in 2026 is more about the idea. It could still be another year or two before a bill passes through the House and Senate. And from there, South Carolina sports betting legalization could require a constitutional amendment. That would mean any bill must be on a general election ballot. The chances of that happening before 2028 are next to nil. And even if voters approve it, a possible rollout could take until 2029 or 2030. 

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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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