House of Representatives in South Carolina Scheduled to Discuss Legal Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
House of Representatives in South Carolina Scheduled to Discuss Legal Sports Betting

After rejecting the idea at previous turns, could legal sports betting come to South Carolina in 2023? Some version of that question permeated the public discourse ever since the subject failed to gain traction in 2021 and 2022. And while we have no assurances that things will be different next, we do at least know the state will discuss it.

The South Carolina House of Representatives recently met for the first time since the November elections. Nothing official was decided or voted upon. This was just a chance for the new-look branch of government to get a feel for the new dynamic. Most importantly, it was also an opportunity to set the House of Representatives' agenda for the annual legislature meetings. 

Many weren't sure whether South Carolina sports betting would make the cut. But it turns out that won't be the case. The South Carolina House of Representatives is now scheduled to discuss legal sports betting next year.

Initially, this seems like great news for sports betting companies and enthusiasts. But what is it in actuality?

Sports Betting is Among a Long List of Progressive Topics South Carolina Plans to Discuss

South Carolina isn't necessarily prioritizing a conversation about legal sports betting, per se. It is merely a subject that falls under a larger umbrella.

As new House Speaker Murrell Smith, a Sumter County Republican, explained to ABC 6 in Columbia, South Carolina: “We need to continue to modernize our economic activity in South Carolina. We need to approve certain conditions. We’ve had great successes on the economic front but we need to continue to make sure we have the most business friendly environment in the country.”

This quest for aggressive economic development will take the state through an array of topics it has so far avoided or outright rejected. This includes not only sports betting, but also the potential legalization of marijuana.

Opponents of both issues like to focus on South Carolina's fundamentals. They claim the state was among the least impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to relaxed and temporary restrictions. They also claim the region was among the quickest to recover from its hardships. And if the local economy is "thriving," why must the state explore additional revenue streams that require constitutional amendments and rewritten laws?

New South Carolina House Speaker Knows Residents Are Already Betting on Sports

New South Carolina House Speaker Knows Residents Are Already Betting on Sports

Murrell Smith has an answer for these critics.

"Just because we’re doing well does not mean we have to take our foot off the gas pedal," he explained to ABC 6. "People want to gamble, and they can do it on their phones on apps right now, so why not be able to give South Carolina the ability to benefit from that?”

Mr. Smith isn't wrong. We've said it before and we'll say it again and again: Outlawing online sports betting doesn't actually stop it. People from South Carolina can sign up with one of the top online sportsbooks from our catalog of reviews right now. They also have the option of visiting a neighboring state that has legal mobile sports betting or on-site wagering. That isn't so hard to do anymore. More than half of the United States has now legalized some form of sports betting.

Those who fall on the other side of the fence will insist South Carolina doesn't have the market for sports betting. They aren't home to a professional sports franchise, and many states don't allow residents to bet on local college sports.

This logic makes sense in theory but has been disproven in practice. Just look at sports betting in Mississippi. They don't have a pro sports franchise, and their state population checks in roughly 2.5 million residents lower than the latest census data from South Carolina. Do you know how much sports betting revenue Mississippi has made since legalizing in August 2018? Over $25 million. 

What are the Chances of Legal Sports Betting Arriving in South Carolina?

It doesn't matter how well the South Carolina economy is doing. No state is in a position to turn down tax revenue in the tens of millions of dollars over a four-year span. If Mississippi is good for $25.6 million tax profit through four years, then South Carolina has the chance to almost double that. Can they really turn down, say, $40 million in additional funding between now and 2026?

If Henry McMaster has his way, they might. The South Carolina governor remains against sports betting and was just re-elected on a platform that reiterated as much. That doesn't seem to bode well for future of sports betting.

Then again, McMaster alone cannot derail the campaign. The House of Representatives is welcoming 27 new faces to the fold. They have the power to enact changes that reach the Senate if they drum up enough bi-partisan support.

And guess what? They might have it. House Speaker Murrell Smith is clearly in favor of legal sports betting, and he's a Republican. If his sentiments reflect the opinions of other new or elevated House members, then South Carolina sports betting has an actual chance this time.

Of course, changes will not be immediate. The House won't meet until January 10. And even if they approve a sports betting bill, they'll need the Senate to follow suit. And from there, they still need voter approval. This entire issue is a process. However, for the first time ever, it seems like one the state might actually be interested in.

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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