South Carolina Casino and Gambling Guide
South Carolina is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to gambling.
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 at.
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Online Gambling and South Carolina Law
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 either.
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 gaming tables:
"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 covered here.
Although a stretch, this could apply to online casino table games and poker sites.
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 prosecution.
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 before depositing.
Here are some steps that you should take before playing real money games at any offshore site:
- Read Several Reviews
- Look at Reputability
- Search for Customer Complaints
- Check Out Deposit Methods
- Contact Live Chat
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 service.
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.
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 service).
Make sure that the site you're interested in has at least one deposit option you can use.
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.
Breaking down what is or isn't legal in South Carolina. Gambling Venues in South Carolina
Where to gamble in the state of South Carolina. The History of Gaming Laws in South Carolina
A brief history of South Carolina laws regarding gambling. South Carolina Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in South Carolina Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in South Carolina
What will the future look like for South Carolina gamblers?
More Gambling Laws in South Carolina
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.
Rutherford isn't giving up, though. He pre-filed a question on the 2018 ballot that will ask voters if they approve of casino, horse, and sports gambling.
Charitable Gambling: Illegal
The Palmetto State has some of the toughest charitable gambling laws in America.
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 Powerball.
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 game's outcome."
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 being busted:
- 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.
These games were extremely popular due to the Palmetto State's lack of gaming options. According to the LA Times, the industry's peak featured 37,000 video poker machines spread throughout the state.
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.
Owners of the video poker machines responded with negative political ads against Beasley, which was one of the key components in causing Beasley to lose his re-election bid in 1998.
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.
The Big M cruise ship
Docks in Little River, SC
Features over 200 gaming machines and 10 table games.
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 in 1802.
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.
Video Poker machines banned; South Carolina Lottery approved.
5 men are cleared of unlawful gambling charges for playing in a home poker game.
Rep. Todd Rutherford introduces bill for commercial casinos, but the legislation fails.
South Carolina has problem with widespread video poker machines.
Catawba Tribe sues for the right to offer video gaming on reservations; they lose their case the following year.
South Carolina Supreme Court rules that social gambling is illegal.
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.
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 consideration.
Taking everything into account, it could be a decade before the Palmetto State looks at the iGaming issue.
According to Greeneville's WYFF Channel 4, daily fantasy sports (DFS) are legal in South Carolina.
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.
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 years.
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 State."
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.
South Carolina Gambling Laws- This government page features South Carolina's main gambling laws. It's a great resource if you have questions beyond what we've covered.
South Carolina Department of Revenue- The State Department of Revenue handles all matters related to charity bingo. Their site covers a lot of ground, so we suggest using the search engine tool.
South Carolina Education Lottery- 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 iGaming.
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.