South Carolina is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to
This is of little surprise since they’re in the heart of the Bible Belt.
Their criminal code even includes a special punishment for holding home gambling
functions on the Sabbath.
Based on this prefacing, it’s no shock that South Carolina doesn’t have legal
Internet gambling. They do have numerous offshore sites operating within their
boundaries though, which causes some confusion.
We’ll help cut down on this confusion by discussing South Carolina’s gaming
laws and online gambling options.
We’re also going to cover the Palmetto State’s overall gaming industry, where
you can gamble here, FAQs and some additional legal resources for you to look
South Carolina doesn’t address online gambling or terms like “Internet” and
“computer” in their criminal code. This makes sense because South Carolina’s
criminal code feels like it was etched in stone.
But the absence of language against Internet gambling doesn’t make it legal
Let’s dive into the Palmetto State’s gaming laws to find out their stance on
iGaming along with potential penalties for violating laws.
Is Online Gambling Legal in South Carolina?
South Carolina follows a simple rule: if the government doesn’t legalize a
form of gaming, then it’s considered illegal.
The Palmetto State hasn’t come close to regulating iGaming, and they
certainly haven’t approved offshore gambling sites either.
South Carolina’s gaming criminal code is so vague that it’s hard to tell what
they’d use to prosecute gaming sites with.
The closest thing we can find is code 16-19-50, which discusses unlawful
“Any person who shall set up, keep, or use any (a) gaming table, commonly
called A, B, C, or E, O, or any gaming table known or distinguished by any other
letters or by any figures, (b) roley-poley table, (c) table to play at rouge et
noir, (d) faro bank (e) any other gaming table or bank of the like kind or of
any other kind for the purpose of gaming, or (f) any machine or device licensed
pursuant to Section 12-21-2720 and used for gambling purposes except the games
of billiards, bowls, chess, draughts, and backgammon, upon being convicted
thereof, upon indictment, shall forfeit a sum not exceeding five hundred dollars
and not less than two hundred dollars.”
It’s hard to look past the antiquated phrases like “roley-poley table” and
“faro bank,” but if you can do so, you’ll notice that any gaming table is
Although a stretch, this could apply to online casino table games and poker
South Carolina is unlikely to take such a leap to prosecute iGaming sites,
but we’ve seen Kentucky use vague language (unsuccessfully) in order to attempt
gambling domain name seizures.
Can I be Arrested for Gambling Online in South Carolina?
It’s possible, but highly unlikely.
Section 16-19-40 bans residents from numerous gambling activities:
“If any person shall play at any tavern, inn, store for the retailing of
spirituous liquors or in any house used as a place of gaming, barn, kitchen,
stable or other outhouse, street, highway, open wood, race field or open place
at (a) any game with cards or dice, (b) any gaming table, commonly called A, B,
C, or E, O, or any gaming table known or distinguished by any other letters or
by any figures, (c) any roley-poley table, (d) rouge et noir, (e) any faro bank
(f) any other table or bank of the same or the like kind under any denomination
whatsoever or (g) any machine or device licensed pursuant to Section 12-21-2720
and used for gambling purposes.”
The locations listed in code 16-19-40 don’t mention anything about an online
gaming site, but they could use the phrase “any gaming table” to attempt
Any player convicted of violating this law faces up to 30 days in jail and a
$100 fine. Any operator faces up to 12 months in prison and a $2,000 fine.
Luckily, you shouldn’t have to worry about this law as online gambler.
First off, the state has never arrested a player for Internet gambling.
Secondly, the legal language above doesn’t make for an airtight case if South
Carolina goes to the trouble of busting online gamblers.
Is My Money Safe at Offshore Sites?
South Carolina is in a grey area regarding iGaming, and many offshore
gambling sites take advantage of this status.
What’s nice is that this gives South Carolina residents plenty of options.
The problem is that these sites aren’t licensed in the U.S.
This isn’t to say that the offshore gaming market is filled with nefarious
operators, but the few bad lemons out there make it important to do research
Here are some steps that you should take before playing real money games at
any offshore site:
Read Several Reviews
Once you find a site you like, the first step is
to read several reviews on it. Reviews are great because they normally cover
several main topics, including bonuses, games, banking options and customer
Look at Reputability
One of the keys when reading reviews is to
get an idea on a gaming site’s reputability. The more credible an offshore
company is, the more confidence you’ll have when depositing.
Search for Customer Complaints
To add to the last tip, you should also
Google customer complaints on gaming sites. No casino or poker site will
satisfy everybody, but this should give you an idea on if they struggle
really badly in any particular area (i.e. processing cash outs, customer
Check Out Deposit Methods
Make sure that the site you’re interested in
has at least one deposit option you can use.
Contact Live Chat
Reviews usually cover customer support, but it
provides extra assurance when you visit the site directly and ask their live
chat/email support a simple question. This helps you gauge how friendly and
knowledgeable they are.
South Carolina doesn’t have any commercial or tribal casinos on their soil.
The only casino option they have is the Big M Casino cruise, which must be in
international waters before gambling can commence.
In 2006, the Catawba Tribe fought the state in court so they could build a
tribal casino. After all, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 gives tribes
the right to negotiate for casino gambling.
The Catawba were successful in the lower courts, but the South Carolina
Supreme Court overturned this ruling and denied the tribe’s request.
In 2015, House Representative Todd Rutherford introduced a bill that would
legalize commercial casinos, but this legislation failed to gain any traction.
The Palmetto State has some of the toughest charitable gambling laws in
Bingo is the only form of gambling that approved charities can offer. Any
charity wishing to make revenue through bingo must file an application with the
South Carolina Department of Revenue Bingo Licensing and Enforcement.
Also note that the state has six classes of charity bingo: AA, B, C, D, E and
F. The differences include prize limits, admission fees and whether or not
charities must pay for licensing.
South Carolina used to allow charitable raffles, but they ended this in 2014.
The South Carolina Education Lottery was created in 2000. Games offered by
this lottery include Cash 5, Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, Pick 4, Pick 5 and
South Carolina doesn’t have any legal poker rooms. The only option players
have is unlicensed offshore poker sites.
Pari-mutuel betting is yet another illegal gambling activity in South
Carolina. They do have a couple of horse races at the Springdale Course Track
though, including the Carolina Cup and Colonial Cup International Steeplechase.
Social Gambling: Illegal
Going back to section 16-19-40 of the South Carolina Constitution, they don’t
allow any kind of unlawful gambling. Social gaming hasn’t been approved by the
government, therefore it’s illegal.
South Carolina proved this in 2006, when they busted a high stakes poker game
with 27 players. The police seized $62,000 and took every player to jail.
22 players pleaded guilty to unlawful gambling and paid a small fine. But 5
players refused to plead guilty and appealed their convictions.
The case lasted over three and a half years, with Circuit Judge R. Markley
Dennis overturning the convictions based on poker’s skill element. Judge Dennis
also said that the players were convicted on an 1802 gambling ban that was
“unconstitutionally vague and overboard.”
But in 2012, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the convictions
should’ve remained intact.
In a non-unanimous decision, the judges wrote that gambling isn’t determined
by skill, but rather if “there is money or something of value wagered on the
You take your legal chances by playing at any social gambling function in
South Carolina. If you do play, the following points may prevent your game from
Keep the stakes low, unlike the 2006 game discussed above.
The host shouldn’t impose a house edge, collect rake or attempt to
profit in any way (i.e. selling food/drinks).
Avoid anything illegal on the premises including drugs, unregistered
firearms or prostitution.
Don’t brag about the game or discuss it with outsiders.
Video Gambling: Illegal
In the 1990s, South Carolina allowed bars and other liquor serving
establishments to have licensed video poker machines.
By comparison, Pennsylvania – a state with 13 casinos and more than double
South Carolina’s population – has 29,000 gaming machines.
Video poker was big business for South Carolina, with the machines pulling in
over $3 billion annually. But in 1998, then Governor David Beasley set out to
ban video gaming during his re-election campaign.
Beasley, who injected his Christian values into politics, dubbed video poker
the “crack cocaine of gambling.” He also used a 10-month old baby dying in a hot
car as her mother gambled as the banner for his campaign.
Nevertheless, the seed was already planted in the minds of politicians and
judges. The South Carolina Supreme Court voted to ban video gaming in 2000,
immediately pulling the plug on over 22,000 machines.
Gambling Venues in South Carolina
South Carolina may not allow land based casinos, but they do have limited
cruise ship gambling. The main stipulation is that the ship must be three miles
into international wagers before gambling can commence.
1) The Big M cruise ship
Docks in Little River, SC
Over 200 gaming machines
2) The Big M Casino
4495 Mineola Ave,
Little River, SC 29566
History of Gambling in South Carolina
As we’ve covered so far, South Carolina is tough on gambling. This is seen
throughout their entire history, which starts with banning all forms of gaming
The Palmetto State allowed video poker machines throughout the 1990s, but
they decided to ban all of these games in 2000.
The Catawba Tribe sued for the right to offer casino gaming in 2006. Not
surprisingly, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled against them.
This state has even proven to be tough on social gambling. 27 people were
arrested for playing in a home poker game in 2009.
A judge’s ruling overturned convictions on 5 of the men, but a South Carolina
Supreme Court ruling stated that social gambling is illegal and the men’s
conviction shouldn’t have been overturned.
State Representative Todd Rutherford introduced a commercial casino bill in
2015, but the legislation failed to gain any traction.
Given South Carolina’s gambling history, the prospects of legal iGaming don’t
look good in the immediate future.
State constitution amended to ban all gambling.
South Carolina has problem with widespread video poker machines.
Video Poker machines banned; South Carolina Lottery approved.
Catawba Tribe sues for the right to offer video gaming on reservations; they lose their case the following year.
5 men are cleared of unlawful gambling charges for playing in a home poker game.
South Carolina Supreme Court rules that social gambling is illegal.
Rep. Todd Rutherford introduces bill for commercial casinos, but the legislation fails.
Daily Fantasy sports bill introduced, but doesn’t get a vote.
Bill introduced to challenge federal ban on sports betting.
South Carolina FAQs
South Carolina clearly doesn’t approve of many forms of gambling. They also
don’t offer any clear language that damns Internet gambling.
Does this give you room to play any form of iGaming? Let’s discuss this
matter by looking at some of the FAQs we’ve received.
Will South Carolina Legalize Online Gambling?
No state has legalized and regulated Internet gaming without a land based
casino industry in place first. Before South Carolina even considers iGaming,
they must first approve and develop a brick and mortar gambling presence.
House Rep. Rutherford is fighting for casino gambling because he believes it
would help pay for the state’s road needs.
The problem, though, is that South Carolina is so backwards to gambling that
it could take years for commercial casinos. Even then, it’ll take a few years
for the casinos to be running before Internet gambling gets serious
Taking everything into account, it could be a decade before the Palmetto
State looks at the iGaming issue.
Their opinion comes from Eighth Circuit Deputy Solicitor, Warren Mowry, who
believes that people are perfectly fine to play DFS.
“It’s legal until it’s declared otherwise,” said Mowry. “I have not heard of
any groundswell against it in South Carolina. I’m not sure how much energy there
is to do something about it.”
This opinion isn’t exactly advice from the state’s attorney general or
Supreme Court, but in the absence of either weighing in, industry leaders
DraftKings and FanDuel continue operating in the Palmetto State.
Rutherford’s legislation also seeks state voters’ opinion on standard sports
betting too. This activity is currently illegal in all but four states:
Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.
Why do Offshore Gaming Sites Continue Operating in South Carolina?
Offshore gambling sites normally operate in a state when the following two
conditions are present:
There is no regulated iGaming market.
There is no specific legislation banning online gambling.
Based on South Carolina’s strict gambling laws, we can assume that they don’t
allow offshore operators. With these conditions in place, gaming sites continue
to serve residents of the Palmetto State.
No serious movement has been initiated to either legalize or ban online
gambling. This means the status quo of offshore gaming is likely to continue for
Will I be Sent to Jail for Playing Online Casino Games on Sunday?
South Carolina incorporates a strange religious law into section 16-19-70,
which you can read below:
“Whoever shall keep or suffer to be kept any gaming table or permit any game
or games to be played in his house on the Sabbath day, on conviction thereof
before any court having jurisdiction, shall be fined in the sum of fifty
dollars, to be sued for on behalf of, and to be recovered for the use of, the
In America, the Sabbath is considered Sunday. This means that if you’re
arrested for unlawful gambling on this day, you’re subject to an extra $50 fine.
This law was written at a time when $50 was worth far more to people. This
code shows just how deep South Carolina’s religious faith goes.
If you were to be arrested for Internet gambling on the Sabbath, then you’d
pay $50 on top of any other court-imposed fine. The key to remember is that
South Carolina hasn’t arrested anybody for Internet gambling.
Below, you’ll find information on South Carolina’s gaming agencies and laws.
– Established in 2000, the South Carolina Education Lottery handles in-state,
multi-state and instant games.
The Future & Your Views
South Carolina only allows charitable bingo, a lottery and cruise ship
gambling in international waters. This makes them one of the toughest states
when it comes to gaming.
Given South Carolina’s current situation, we don’t see them legalizing online
gambling any time soon.
As covered before, they don’t have a commercial casino industry to supply the
online gaming. With commercial casinos being years away from being legalized and
built, the outcome for regulated iGaming is bleak.
Throw in the fact that South Carolina is a conservative state with laws
against gambling on Sunday, and you don’t have a great candidate for regulated
The only good news is that the Palmetto State isn’t actively seeking ways to
ban online gambling or arrest players, and there’s no current push to change
this stance either.
This means that you can continue playing at offshore casinos, poker room and
sports betting sites until South Carolina becomes more active on the matter.
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