Lawmakers May Not Legalize South Carolina Sports Betting Until 2025

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 26, 2023 07:00 PM
Lawmakers May Not Legalize South Carolina Sports Betting Until 2025

Looking to legally bet on sports in South Carolina sometime in the near future? Well, we have some bad news. You may not be able to. Because, as of now, lawmakers don't seem like they'll officially legalize South Carolina sports betting before 2025—at the absolute earliest.

This timeline is not ideal for people in The Palmetto State who have been patiently waiting for the chance to place wagers. Since 2018, they have needed to watch time and again as South Carolina lawmakers basically punted on the opportunity to green light sports betting. During this span, meanwhile, the majority of the country has beat them to the punch. Sports betting in the USA is now legal for more than 30 states, with a handful more set to join the fold later this year.

South Carolina has remained conspicuously absent from this growing list, even as sports betting in North Carolina, their direct neighbor, barrels toward legalization. But the outlook in South Carolina is not all bad. Officials have at least been willing to discuss the subject. That hasn't been the case for all holdout states.

In fact, there is a South Carolina sports betting bill on the table as you read this. Many believe it might even make it through the House of Representatives and Senate before getting brought to voters during the next major election. However, because of state laws surrounding constitutional amendments,  the ratification of a sports betting bill may not lead to imminent wagering. It could be years before an official rollout—and that's assuming the new initiative gets the rubber stamp in the House and Senate this year.

Latest South Carolina Sports Betting Bill Would Legalize Online Casinos, Too

Democratic State Representative J. Todd Rutherford, the House Minority Leader, has proposed a South Carolina sports betting bill that would legalize three different forms of gaming. Ben Fiore of recently unpacked the full details of the initiative:

"This proposal by the House minority leader mentioned that the bill would legalize professional sports betting, parimutuel horse betting, and even online casino gaming. With both North Carolina and Georgia not having any legal online gambling, this bill is proposing a big step for South Carolina. While online legal sports betting has been spreading across the US, there are only six current states that offer online casinos, with SC having the chance to be the seventh in 2023. This proposal mentions that legal online casino play would allow both games of skill and games of luck through electronic machines to be available at SC online casino apps. This would allow table games and slot machines to be regulated in the state and be played from a mobile app."

It isn't clear how much bi-partisan support this bill has at the moment. South Carolina's last sports betting bill, HB 57277, wasn't super popular among key stakeholders, and Rutherford's version is significantly more aggressive. As Fiore noted, only six states have legalized online casino gaming. That would make South Carolina's betting structure a relative rarity—and give them a leg up over the prospective offerings in North Carolina.

Representative Rutherford seems to be accounting for the variance in interest. Though the new South Carolina sports betting bill stipulates where the revenue would go—road and bridge construction, as well as toward treating gambling addiction—it does not specify a blanket tax rate. One potential reason for framing the proposal this way: It invites negotiations that could sway fringe supporters.

For instance, let's say the new South Carolina sports betting initiative mandated a 7 percent tax rate. That might not be high enough for some lawmakers to fully support the bill—especially, again, given how rare it is to legalize online casino gaming. But if you bump that rate up to 10 percent, 12 percent or even 15 percent, there's a chance it would engender more support among both political parties. And given that the South Carolina House and Senate are currently controlled by the Republicans, generating as much bi-partisan support as possible is mission critical to any measure introduced by Democrats like Rutherword.

Why It May Take South Carolina YEARS to Roll Out Legal Sports Betting

Entering March 2023, there's no true sense of what will happen to the newest sports betting bill. But experts are already highlighting concerns among potential sports betting timelines for South Carolina. 

Let's go ahead and assume the latest proposal gets the nod to move forward this year. As Gaming Today's Rebecca Hanchett reported, it likely still wouldn't be enough to get South Carolina sports betting off the ground before 2025: 

"South Carolina law requires that a proposed constitutional amendment be placed before statewide voters for approval during a general election. General elections in the state are held in even years. The next one will be held in Nov. 2024. Should it receive voter approval, the amendment filed on Dec. 8 would then have to be ratified by state lawmakers in the following regular legislative session, in Jan. 2025."

There is a way around this timeline. If South Carolina removes online gaming from the current proposal, the legalization of sports betting alone may not require a constitutional amendment. That, in theory, would allow the state to push forward without waiting for the next general election. With that said, this isn't seen as a viable course of action. States that have bypassed general elections are usually only legalizing in-person sports betting. South Carolina's bill allows for online sports betting, as well.

Waiting so long may be untenable for certain South Carolinians. Fortunately, they have other options. North Carolina is about to legalize sports betting, so they can travel there or to one of the other nearby states. Plenty of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks also allow anyone in the United States to create an account and immediately begin processing wagers. Whatever your prerogative, you should get comfortable exploring the alternative avenues that suit you best. After all, if you live in South Carolina, your only other choice at this point is waiting until 2025—and potentially beyond.

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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