Get used to not seeing legal sports betting in South Carolina. Because the laws related to it are not changing anytime soon. At least, that will be the case if Governor Henry McMaster has his way with South Carolina sports betting.
The incumbent Republican has long made it clear that he has no interest in legalizing any type of gambling throughout the state. His stance is so rigid that it had many wondering whether he might actually lose this year's November election. After all, legal sports betting in the United is becoming increasingly common. South Carolina's laws against it actually put the state in the minority. This implies the nation's overall sentiment on sports gambling has changed, and that McMaster's refusal to accept it put him at risk of surrendering his office.
As it turns, though, McMaster wasn't at risk of losing anything.
Democratic challenger Joe Cunningham tried using South Carolina sports betting to swing votes in his favor, but his progressive stance on the matter wasn't nearly enough. He wound up with just over 40 percent of the popular vote. That number is larger than many polls projected, but Cunningham still comfortably lost to McMaster, who garnered over 58.1 percent of the popular vote.
Some might be holding out hope that McMaster starts changing his tune prior to the next round of South Carolina legislation sessions. Yet, it's tough to imagine him showing such ideological malleability. He ran for re-election on a platform that included speaking out against legal sports betting and other progressive matters like recreational marijuana. And then he won in a borderline landslide, suggesting he is, in fact, an accurate voice of the state's constituents. And if that's the status quo, can we really expect him to suddenly embrace legal gambling?
South Carolina Governor Has Already Reiterated His Distaste for Legal Sports Betting
Oh, look. We're already answering the previous question.
Upon defeating Joe Cunningham to remain governor, Henry McMaster wasted little time reminding us that he has no plans to legalize South Carolina sports betting. "That's gambling," he said when asked about both sports betting and recreational marijuana, according to NBC News. "A lot of people are opposed to it and recreational marijuana; those are not the answers to the problems in South Carolina.”
Is McMaster 100 percent accurate here? We can't be sure. There haven't been any expansive polls conducted on South Carolina sports betting. At the same time, McMaster received almost 60 percent of the popular vote while spouting these views. It stands to reason he represents the majority thinking inside the state.
Of course, that doesn't mean McMaster or anyone else who doesn't support sports betting is correct. The legalization of gambling isn't a cure-all for, well, anything. But it's foolish to pretend that it's not a potentially lucrative revenue stream. There will be a demand for it, even in a state like South Carolina that isn't home to any professional sports franchises.
Just consider a state like West Virginia. They have a much smaller population than South Carolina. They also don't have any pro sports franchises in their market. But since legalizing sports betting in the summer of 2018, they have raked in $13.6 million of extra tax revenue. That's more than $3 million per year. No state with a population under 5 million people can just scoff at that kind of money. Especially when you start projecting it forward five and 10 years. So while the legalization of sports betting in South Carolina wouldn't solve any budget problems on its own, it would still go a long way toward solidifying the state's financial future.
Why Is Henry McMaster Against South Carolina Sports Betting?
You'd think there'd be a concrete answer to this question. Henry McMaster is so staunchly against South Carolina sports that there must be a rock-solid foundation of reasoning behind his stance.
Or maybe not.
Generally speaking, McMaster and many other Republicans don't want to legalize sports betting because it would mean amending the state's constitution. That's apparently a big deal, because, well, we don't really know why.
The South Carolina state constitution was ratified in 1868. That's more than 150 years ago. No political or moral code of conduct is immune to the march of time. Things change. Life changes. Views change. Just because sports betting in South Carolina isn't constitutional by letter of the law, that doesn't mean it's not worth discussion. A reluctance to amend a 150-plus year-old document isn't sound reasoning for this issue.
The Future of Sports Betting South Carolina
Unfortunately, nobody in the industry expects South Carolina to seriously consider legal sports betting while Keith McMaster is in office and the Republicans control the House and/or Senate. That certainly means they won't be proposing any sports betting bills during the next batch of legislative meetings.
It also means that South Carolina residents must explore alternative avenues of sports betting. Luckily, there is no shortage of nearby states who have already legalized it. There are also plenty of sites in our reviews of the best online sportsbooks that allow people in the USA to set up and service accounts.
Beyond that, all we can do is wait. And wait. And then wait some more.
McMaster is in office for another four years, which means South Carolina will be lucky to approve sports betting, amend the constitution and then roll it all out to the public before 2028.
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