How Far Away is the Legalization of South Carolina Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 26, 2024 07:00 PM
How Far Away is the Legalization of South Carolina Sports Betting?

As state legislatures around the USA continue their annual (or bi-annual) meetups, a familiar question is cropping up inside The Palmetto: When will South Carolina sports betting get legalized? Better yet, in recent months and years, many have shifted the phrasing of this question to: Will South Carolina sports betting ever be legalized?

To be sure, this discussion is not unique to The Palmetto State. In fact, this is basically a universal conversation around this time of year. State legislatures are immersed in debates and proposals over policy, new laws, constitutional addendums and much more. It is during these meetings that deep dives into the future of sports betting throughout the United States wind up taking center stage.

And for the most part, the spotlight is on states without legal sports betting. That’s largely because the acceptance of sports gambling verges on the country standard. Nearly 40 states have now legalized some form of sports wagering. That puts the complete absence of sports betting in South Carolina inside a conspicuous minority. 

So, we return, like always, to the previous question: What does the future look like for sports betting in South Carolina? Or conversely, does South Carolina sports gambling have a future at all?

South Carolina Sports Betting Not Expected to Make Any Headway in 2024 

Perhaps the most common question right now is whether South Carolina sports betting could be legalized in 2024. Then again, it might not be too common. Because the answer is an unequivocal no.

Granted, this could change. Unlike other states, the South Carolina legislature does meet on an annual basis to discuss their most pressing priorities. Per their official site, the “House and the Senate, has part-time representatives that are in session about five months of the year, from the second Tuesday in January until the second Thursday in May. The House and Senate only meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.” At this writing, that gives the South Carolina House and South Carolina Senate around two-and-a-half-months to add sports betting to their agenda.

To this point, though, mum remains the word. It does not appear as if the legalization of sports betting in South Carolina is anywhere near the top of the agenda. Despite this, some have posited there could be some 11th-hour finagling. The legalization of sports betting in North Carolina is believed to have caught the attention of South Carolina policymakers. 

Whether “piqued attention” amounts to “pressure” is a separate matter. Indeed, plenty of South Carolinians will bet on sports in North Carolina. Missing out on that revenue could coax The Palmetto State into action. 

At the same time, sports betting in North Carolina launches on Friday, March 1, 2024. It’s unlikely South Carolina lawmakers will feel too much pressure to address sports gambling without seeing how it fares in their neighboring region.

Why Hasn’t South Carolina Seriously Considered the Legalization of Sports Gambling Yet?

Answering this question is tougher. Pinning it down to a singular reason is impossible. There are a myriad of factors at play. 

It’s also slightly unfair to portray South Carolina as entirely disinterested in sports betting. House Bill 3749 was proposed in 2023 and would have legalized certain forms of gambling, and it was heard by the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Revenue Policy. 

Yet, HB 3749 never truly took off. Opponents throughout the South Carolina House and Senate remain staunch. And none is more rooted in their opposition than arguably the most important of the bunch: South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster. Though he hasn’t necessarily offered concrete reasoning behind his stance, he continues to believe that sports betting does not align with South Carolina’s values, per ABC 15. 

To what Governor McMaster is specifically referring remains uncertain. But members of the Senate have expressed concern about what the commercialization of casino gambling and sports wagering in South Carolina could do to property values and predatory lending practices. Others have also expressed concern that allowing top online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market would seriously inflate gambling addiction throughout the state. 

Many of these concerns are fair. But again, it’s not clear which factors are driving McMaster’s opposition. And until he provides a better idea of why he’s against South Carolina sports gambling, it’ll be hard to figure out where the state goes from here.

Hope on the Horizon for South Carolina Sports Wagering Timeline?

Let us now journey into the Land of Speculation.

We really do believe the launch of sports betting in North Carolina will invariably impact South Carolina’s thinking. The thing is, it may take time. The Palmetto State may need at least a year to see how the social and economic impact of sports betting plays out in The Tar Heel State. But that technically means a more thorough South Carolina sports betting discussion could be had in 2025. Or basically, this time next year.

To be certain, we wouldn’t bet on South Carolina legalizing sports gambling by the end of 2025. We’re just saying the dialogue should pick up on that timeline. Under the circumstances, that’s a great thing.

On top of that, it’s also semi-encouraging that HB 3749 seemed to garner meaningful support throughout the House of Representatives during last year’s sessions. That suggests the Senate and Governor McMaster are the last dominoes who need to fall.

When will that happen? In this case, your guess is as good as ours. But like we said, the context of the South Carolina sports betting discussion should visibly change over the next 12 months or so.

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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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