Even though sports betting in South Carolina failed to gain any real traction at the latest meetings this past spring, there was a healthy amount of interest in the last proposed initiative. House Bill 5277 sought to legalize sports betting in all forms, both in-person and online, while opening up the state's casino business. But the murmurings of support may turn out to be a facade. Because in the months and years to come, many now expect the casino gambling laws to take precedent over South Carolina sports betting.
To be sure, this isn't just a gut feeling. It is a well informed sentiment shared throughout the Senate and House of Representatives. Sam McQuillan recently dug into the details for Action Network, and it turns out there's a growing amount of pessimism among those who initially backed HB 5277 that the state will make it a top priority the next time the necessary committee convenes.
Make no mistake, this is a huge development. It wasn't long ago that most thought South Carolina would follow in the footsteps of North Carolina sports betting. Now, however, it appears South Carolina residents may have to wait even longer for a chance to legally wager on sports.
Why is the focus suddenly shifting to casino gambling laws? And what does this mean for the future of Carolina sports betting? Let's get into the fallout from this latest news.
South Carolina Sports Betting May Be Tabled to Expand Casino Market Beyond Cruise Ships
Not many realize this, but South Carolina currently only allows a select amount of cruise ships to operate within its lines—predominantly in the Charleston area. This limited access to casino gambling is why expanding its presence with brick-and-mortar locations on land was emphasized in HB 5277.
But that apparently isn't enough. It now seems like South Carolina will insist upon setting up more casinos before delving into legal sports betting possibilities.
The prevailing belief is that legalizing the ability to bet on sports without increasing the infrastructure of the casino business will be an immense undertaking and also potentially hurt the roll out of online and in-person wagering. Most states that have already implemented legal sports betting did so with a robust casino business already in place. They had brick-and-mortar locations to accommodate the additional interest and foot traffic, and having those on-land casinos in place invariably made the licensing process so much easier.
South Carolina will be in a different boat if the green light sports betting. Without any casinos aside from those on cruise ships, they're worried they'll repress the initial sports betting market due to a lack of access.
Those who support the legalization of South Carolina sports betting staunchly reject this view. They argue that most sports gambling takes place online anyway, so the absence of additional casinos wouldn't be a detriment. At the same time, by driving customers to online sportsbooks, South Carolina will cost itself a large chunk of business, since all the primary digital operators (FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM) do not have physical locations in the state and, therefore, wouldn't reinvest any of their revenue on a local level.
Government Officials Showing Lack of Urgency
Half-baked buy-in is yet another roadblock that has recently emerged on the path to legal sports betting in South Carolina. Local officials on the fence have been reluctant to support one view (pro-betting) or the other (anti-betting) out of fear they'll rankle large swathes of their constituents.
This is what we call Election Year-itis. The primaries will be taking place this November, and sports betting has proven to be a divisive issue. With the exception of a few heavy hitters—such as Beto O'Rourke in Texas—those running for office have been reluctant to support betting initiatives when it isn't totally clear whether their state's population is largely in favor of it.
Beyond that, major corporations have been similarly reluctant to heavily lobby for changes in policy. Though places like FanDuel and DraftKings have spent a ton of money backing sports betting initiatives in California and Florida, among many other locations, they are presently allowed to offer Daily Fantasy Sports betting in South Carolina. Naturally, they're worried that if they push too hard, they'll forfeit any ability whatsoever to offer their services in South Carolina.
How Does This Impact the Timeline for South Carolina Sports Betting?
Our advice to South Carolina residents at this time can be summed up in three words: sit and wait.
That's really all there is to do at this point. South Carolina sports betting needs to become a bigger priority among state officials before we can even begin to figure out a potential rollout date. Heck, it still isn't clear whether South Carolina is willing to legalize sports betting without putting it on a major election ballot. If they're not, the soonest this matter will be voted on is 2024.
And again, this is all assuming South Carolina starts addressing the sports betting dilemma with more urgency. It doesn't seem willing to budge right now. Maybe that changes as North Carolina phases in its own legal sports betting.
Until then, though, the best way to bet on sports in South Carolina is to check out our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. This catalog is chock full of reputable betting sites that will allow you to set up an account and begin processing transactions right away.
If for some reason you're unwilling to go that route, you better get comfortable. Because as of now, it feels like South Carolina sports betting is still years away.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:
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