How Many Attempts to Legalize South Carolina Sports Betting have Failed?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 14, 2023 12:00 AM
We've cobbled together a timeline of all the failed South Carolina sports betting attempts.

Back in 2018, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which effectively allowed individual states to determine their own views on gambling. Ever since then, South Carolina sports betting has been proposed on numerous occasions, only to fall short each and every time. 

Just how many gambling initiatives have been turned down? That would be four. And that’s only including the ones that grew into an official discussion. Various other initiatives that would have legalized sports betting in South Carolina were introduced that never gained any real traction.

What went wrong in all of these instances? And what does it say about the overarching future of sports gambling in The Palmetto State moving forward? We’ve put together a timeline of sports betting proposals in South Carolina to spotlight the state of affairs in the past, present and, most importantly, future. 

Timeline of South Carolina Sports Betting Initiatives

The South Carolina legislature has introduced one sports betting bill each year ever since the Supreme Court overturns PASPA. There was no initiative in 2018, because the legislative meetings had already ended once PASPA was repealed. And in 2020, they didn’t introduce any gambling proposals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With that in mind, here’s a bulleted history of South Carolina sports betting initiatives, listed in chronological order, courtesy of legal sports report

  •  2019: A joint effort from the House and Senate to legalize multiple forms of gambling, including casinos, dice games and sports betting, failed to drum up discussion. The joint resolutions, HJR 3409 and SJR 57, called for an amendment to South Carolina’s constitution. They were backed by Sen. Gerald Malloy and Reps. J. Todd Rutherford and Kambrell Garvin. The bills died after their first readings in their committees.
  • 2021: House Bill 3395 is introduced. The bill proposes an amendment to the constitution of South Carolina to legalize sports betting, horse betting and casino gaming. The bill is read once and dies after being referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
  • 2022: House Bill 5277 is introduced. This bill proposes legalized sports betting including legalizing mobile sports betting. The bill had bipartisan support but died in committee.
  • 2023: House Bill 3749 is introduced and read in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Revenue Policy

This past year’s attempt was considered the closest South Carolina came to reworking their gaming policy. Though HB 3749 faced familiar challenges that have long plagued the South Carolina sports betting discussion, its authors went as far as mapping out specific details and policies typically reserved only for the most serious initiatives.

Yet, HB 3749 still failed to make it all that far into the legislative process. Naturally, this raises the question: Why?

Is One Person Responsible for Setting Back South Carolina’s Attempt to Legalize Sports Gambling?

While no one individual can be blamed for an entire state’s failure to legalize sports betting, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster looms as a key adversary in this particular battle.

So far, Governor McMaster has been a staunch opponent of sports gambling. What’s more, he has shown little evidence of changing his ways. If anything, he has only doubled down on his stance.

Does his stance include valid reasoning? Perhaps. But he hasn’t exactly made that clear. Many thought he simply didn’t want the best online sportsbooks in the United States commercializing the gaming business within the region. But McMaster has also opposed sports betting legislation that would legalize only in-person wagering. 

Instead, he has mostly spoken in vague generalities. For instance, when he was re-elected during last fall’s general election, he said, “A lot of people are opposed to [sports gambling] and recreational marijuana; those are not the answers to the problems in South Carolina.” 

This makes, approximately, zero sense. Multiple polls have suggested plenty of residents would favor some form of legal sports betting. On top of that, a study conducted at the University of South Carolina found that roughly one-quarter of surveyed students had found ways to illegally gamble on sports in The Palmetto State.

What Does the Future Hold for Sports Betting in South Carolina?

Governor McMaster may be right in his assessment that legal sports betting won’t solve all of South Carolina’s problems. Financially, though, it is worth at least millions of dollars per year to the state. And to suggest that most people remain against it feels like he’s painting with a broad brush.

Then again, in his defense, McMaster was just re-elected. And he ran on an openly anti-gambling platform. So while his view on sports betting may not be entirely accurate, he has been afforded the power to interpret and delegate as he sees fit by the state’s constituents.

All of which puts the future of South Carolina sports betting in a murky position. The earliest they can legalize it would be next winter, just in time for it to make the 2024 general election ballot. But if the recent past is any indication, they’re more likely looking at 2026. And again, that’s the absolute earliest. 

Some are hopeful that the legalization of sports betting in North Carolina could sway South Carolina’s policies in the future. That’s a fair thing to wonder about. But given how firmly Governor McMaster has opposed sports betting despite the majority of the USA legalizing it already, we wouldn’t bank on South Carolina’s neighbor having that much of an impact on his thinking. 

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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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