If 2023 is the year sports betting gets legalized in South Carolina, it will probably be because the state finally found a common ground on how they will treat gambling on college football. Phrased another way: The fate of South Carolina sports betting in 2023 and beyond may hinge on college football altogether.
To be sure, there are other issues facing the subject. We'll get into them a little bit later. But if we had to pick a primary roadblock standing between sports betting in South Carolina and legalization, it would be bi-partisan views on the college football market.
This much has become clear as the state plans to fire up discussions at the next round of legislative meetings. A South Carolina legal sports betting bill is already on the table, but before it can be voted upon by the House of Representatives and Senate, it needs to be finalized. And according to multiple news outlets, the proposal's approach to betting on college football is currently the biggest hangup.
The Latest South Carolina Sports Betting Bill Does Not Allow College Football Gambling
In a recent piece for SportsHandle.com, Bennett Conlin provided an overview on the state of South Carolina sports betting:
"Some legislators want to legalize sports betting in South Carolina, and House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford proposed a bill in December with hopes of legalizing it in the state in 2023. Rutherford’s bill excludes wagering on collegiate sports, which could be a sticking point for some legislators as it reduces potential tax revenue. His bill is one of three dealing with legal wagering that were filed ahead of the session."
There's no secret as to why so many South Carolina legislators want college football sports betting on the table. Proponents argue these wagers may wind up accounting for a lion's share of the state's prospective gambling revenue. And they might not be wrong. South Carolina currently isn't home to any professional sports teams. Their biggest draws are college football programs. More specifically, the most popular teams in the state are the South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers—two NCAA football powerhouses.
House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford and his supporters believe that this stance is misguided. They argue that the rise of online sports betting renders in-market options almost irrelevant. And in the event they don't, South Carolina is not at risk of curtailing their revenue opportunities because of their proximity to North Carolina, which houses plenty of pro sports franchises in the Charlotte Hornets (NBA), Carolina Panthers (NFL) and Carolina Hurricanes (NHL).
Still, even if South Carolina views the North Carolina sports market as an extension of their own, one question continues to stand: Why isn't college football sports betting on the table?
South Carolina Sports Betting Bill May be Trying to Serve Too Many Masters
The issue of college sports betting in South Carolina actually has to do more with addressing other problems. Most notably, many government officials claim they have a moral objection to all forms of sports betting.
Striking college sports from the latest bill is an attempt to sway some of those holdouts. The strongest opponents of sports betting tend to associate college sports with underage gambling. By disallowing wagers on collegiate sports, Rutherford is hoping many legislators with moral—or religious—objections to gambling find it easier to compromise and approve the bill that's on the table.
Whether this approach actually works is anyone's guess. But plenty of experts are skeptical.
Whenever sports betting is impeded by a set of spiritual or moral beliefs, it becomes inherently harder to find a happy medium. That's why states such as Utah and Alabama are deemed unlikely to ever legalize sports betting, because the majority of the opposition isn't constitutional but rooted in religious stances.
To South Carolina's credit, they might be different. They aren't as steeped in devout religious beliefs as Utah, Alabama or even Idaho. But they do skew heavily conservative, which is historically problematic.
Sports Betting in South Carolina Remains a Long Shot
This is not meant to imply that all conservatives oppose legal sports betting. We know this isn't true. Plenty of the most ardent sports betting supporters in major markets like Florida and Texas are key figureheads for the republican party.
At the same time, given how reluctant South Carolina legislators have been to compromise on singular issues like betting on college sports, the outlook heading into the next round of legislative meetings this May isn't great. As Conlin noted in his piece for Sports Handle, a poll of experts determined there are seven states that remain overwhelmingly unlikely to legalize sports betting at any point over the next two years. And South Carolina made the list.
This will come as a bummer for sports betting enthusiasts who reside in the state. Fortunately, they are not without options. Many of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will allow people who reside in South Carolina to set up and service an account. Sports betting is also officially legal in many of the surrounding states, including the neighboring North Carolina. South Carolina residents can always travel across state lines to place their wagers.
Should you prefer to hold out for progress on the legal South Carolina sports betting front, well, look to this spring's legislative meetings. If the opposing sides are willing to discuss the implementation of college sports betting, there may be hope that the current stalemate ends sooner than expected. If not, then yeah, it will be years before sports betting comes to South Carolina.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that meets all of your sports betting needs: