South Carolina lawmakers were one of just a few states that considered sports gambling before the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting in May. Although the legislation hasn’t made it far, there will be more impetus to get the ball rolling in the 2019 legislative session to amend South Carolina’s constitution in order to allow sports betting.
Gambling has been banned in South Carolina since 1802 aside from the lottery. Outside of black market betting, residents and visitors there are out of luck if they want to gamble. The state didn’t even allow charitable groups to hold raffles until 2015.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 effectively banned betting on sports. Nevada was the only state under PASPA where it was legal to bet on results of a single game. In May, the Supreme Court overturned the 26-year-old law, which means that states are now allowed to set their own sports betting laws and regulations.
In addition to Nevada, there are now seven states that have legalized sports betting since May, and there are more to follow.
A pro-gambling proposal during the 2018 session, co-sponsored by Representative Russell Ott, didn’t even make it to a subcommittee hearing, but supporters aren’t giving up yet. When speaking of his measure at the time of filing, he made the following comments:
“This is something states will move aggressively toward and we need to move sooner rather than later so we’re not late to the game and playing catch-up. It’s going to happen. We need to make sure we take advantage of it.”
Two measures were pre-filed in the Senate on December 12, which means there will be more discussions on the activity. Regardless of how far they get, the fact that changes are even in the wind is a big deal since South Carolina has just the lottery when it comes to legal gambling.
There are no tribal nor commercial gambling facilities in the state, which means no laws or regulations for casino-style gambling activities exist.
If SC moved to legalize sports gambling and allow bettors to place wagers via online or mobile apps, sportsbooks could bring in an annual betting handle of $3.2 billion. This would generate around $215 million in tax revenue in addition to creating approximately 2,600 new jobs.
Measure S 57, which was introduced by State Senator Gerald Malloy (Democrat), would amend the state’s constitution to allow for casino activities and sports betting. It was pre-filed on December 12 and referred to Committee on Judiciary the same day. This measure would not dictate where casinos could be built.
The amendment to the constitution would open the door to gambling statutes and regulations since the prohibition on gambling would be lifted. To be passed, the amendments would have to be approved by voters. Part of the measure states that the issue will be on the ballot when the “next general election for representatives” takes place.
Measure S 71, which is also backed by Malloy, would create a Gambling Study Committee that would investigate the regulation of gambling.
The committee, which would be made of state officials, would look into “the various forms of gambling, including casinos, slots, table games, horse and dog racing, sports betting, and internet gaming” in South Carolina. The bill will require that the committee report its findings to the General Assembly by January 31, 2020.
Republicans in the state do not want casinos, but Democrats do. This partisan divide means that it’s not likely that either measure will pass.
According to The Post and Courier, a spokesperson for Governor Henry McMaster said that gambling “flies in the face of everything South Carolina stands for.”
Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the United States’ highest profile federal lawmakers, and he is not a fan of gambling.
In fact, according to a report from Gambling Compliance, (which has a paywall), Mr. Graham plans to ask the incoming U.S. Attorney General to make online casino gaming, including sports betting, illegal everywhere in the United States. His opinions on gambling certainly won’t help the partisan divide in his home state of South Carolina.
In other states, the issue of black market gambling is at the forefront of conversations when discussing sports betting policy. In all states, black market gambling is a reality, and Democrats say that there are offshore sites that serve South Carolinians.
Tax revenue from that money could be going into the state’s coffers, according to Democrat lawmakers there. State Representative Wendell Gilliard (Democrat) is pro-sports betting.
In an October 23 Twitter video posted by Brodie Hart, Gilliard says that legalizing sports betting in the state could bring up to $4 billion in tourism dollars to the state. For those who say “gambling is wrong,” he says people are already gambling.
There’s no way of knowing the specific details of the size of the sports betting black market in South Carolina.
Based on the American Gaming Association’s estimated number of $150 billion spent every year in illegal bets across the country, as well as SC’s population, residents and visitors in the state could already be spending over $2 billion a year in bets, which include office sports wagering pools and March Madness brackets in addition to offshore and local bookies.
Lawmakers, state officials, and other stakeholders are well aware of the importance of being early out of the gates when it comes to nearby states. Should North Carolina legalize sports betting before South Carolina, the Palmetto State could lose out on a lot of money. Tennessee will be considering a sports betting bill in 2019.
Georgia doesn’t yet have any bills filed, but if Atlanta goes through with allowing MGM to build a $1.4 billion casino in the downtown region, a lot of South Carolinians will certainly make the drive to Atlanta to place sports bets.
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