Opposition to South Carolina Sports Betting Remains Strong

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 27, 2024 08:00 PM
Opposition to South Carolina Sports Betting Remains Strong

Here’s hoping that you’re not holding your breath for the legalization of South Carolina sports betting. Because it sounds like it’s not happening anytime soon. 

To some extent, this is a roundabout way of saying another legislative season has come to pass without a bill that would legalize sports betting in South Carolina. For the most part, though, it’s both an update and a warning.

The overarching message? Sports wagering in South Carolina remains on the backburner—a total non-priority. And that’s not about to change in the near (or even distant) future.

Lawmakers Remain Hesitant to Entertain South Carolina Sports Betting

Many thought that the launch of sports betting in North Carolina would convince South Carolina to join their foremost neighbor and 37 other states in legalizing some form of sports gambling. It didn’t. Not really.

Yes, a pair of South Carolina sports betting bills were proposed in 2024. But neither gained real traction. And at the end of it all, it became clear that many remain strongly opposed to the idea. Here’s Stephen Enright Jr. from South Carolina Public Radio with more:

“Two major gambling bills were proposed during the current South Carolina General Assembly session. One would allow online horse betting. The other would allow bets on both sports and horse races. Both bills face opposition from the state’s conservative leadership, including the House majority leader. ‘I just don’t think we need to supply that temptation in the state of South Carolina,’ said Rep. David Hiott, R-Pickens, South Carolina’s House majority leader, who opposes both bills.”

Granted, South Carolina sports betting does have its share of supporters. A handful of Democrats have gone to bat for the practice. 

“If they want to use (their) money to wager on a horse race every now and then, then they should have the right to do that,” Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, a sponsor of South Carolina’s two gambling bills, told South Carolina Public Radio. Especially in light of the fact that we’ve got state-sanctioned gambling already in the state, with the state lottery.”

Do South Carolina Gaming Laws Send Mixed Messages?

Representative Ott touches on an interesting point. The South Carolina state lottery is a form of gambling. Why is that not considered a “temptation” the state should avoid supplying? 

It’s also not like the Palmetto State is opposed to other types of betting. Case in point: Daily fantasy sports in South Carolina are basically allowed. Emphasis on basically.

Unlike other states, such as Florida, South Carolina does not have specific laws for or against daily fantasy sites. That means they implicitly permit the practice. 

What’s more, the Palmetto State actively chose not to try shutting down daily fantasy sports betting in South Carolina. Plenty of other states took steps in 2024 to weed out Pick ‘Em fantasy games from their market. Officials have come to believe they too closely mirror regular sports betting practices. 

And yet, South Carolina has not made any movement. In fact, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Attorney General recently told Enright that “our office is not taking action on online gambling.”

Could the Outlook on South Carolina Sports Betting Change in 2025?

South Carolina often gets looped alongside the three other states that have shown the least (or no) interest in the legalization of online sports betting: Alaska, Idaho and Utah. However, their outlook on sports gambling is nowhere near as bleak.

For starters, there have actually been South Carolina sports betting bills put on the table. That proves there is some degree of lasting interest. Not only that, but certain initiatives have called for top online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market. That shows a level of progression not seen in Alaska, Idaho, Utah or, heck, even Hawaii.

We also firmly believe that North Carolina sports betting will play a part in changing South Carolina’s tune. Sure, it has not happened yet. But N.C. sports betting is just a couple of months old. It will take an entire year or more for the market to churn out semi-developed data. And when South Carolina sees how much sports betting it loses to North Carolina, in addition to other surrounding states, it may push them to take more concerted action. 

Even so, assuming this takes “one year” to happen lands on the ambitious end of the timeline. North Carolina needs to have all that information and then publish it. At that point, South Carolina will need to evaluate it. By the time South Carolina sports betting support spreads, it could be 2026 later.

Another Change South Carolina Must See to Advance Sports Betting Interest

Of course, there is one other major tidbit to consider: It may take a wholesale shift in House and Senate power for South Carolina sports betting to stand a chance.

Conservatives make up a plurality of both chambers. And historically speaking, it tends to be those policymakers who oppose online sports betting in the USA more than anyone. Make no mistake, many conservatives have shifted their views over time. But the messaging that comes out of South Carolina is constant.

Perhaps S.C. conservatives eventually change their opinion of sports betting. That’s totally possible. It may also take more time. 

If people are looking to see the pendulum swing at a quicker rate, it will take a massive upheaval in the South Carolina House and Senate majority. And by this, we mean the state will need to see more elected representatives and senators with progressive-leaning views on other policies. That opens the door for a more viable discussion on the South Carolina sports betting front.

Again, we could be wrong. Maybe the South Carolina incumbents grow to embrace sports betting. Either way, we’ll have a better idea of South Carolina sports gambling chances in 2025 once the November 2024 elections play out.

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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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