The sports betting door is open in this coastal state, but many publications are predicting it's a long shot for South Carolina lawmakers to pass a proposed bill.
While many U.S. states have relaxed gambling statutes in recent years and permit casino play and card rooms, South Carolina cannot be counted among them. Gambling laws are relatively strict in the traditionally conservative south so, even though the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, South Carolina was not among the many states that jumped at the opportunity to open land-based sports books.
South Carolina has largely fought against nearly every form of gambling since its founding. Change won't come easy as opposition to gambling is actually written into the state constitution. One bill, however, filed before the 2019 legislative session, is hoping to change all that.
Sen. Gerald Malloy's proposal would open up jurisdictions to allow games of chance, sports betting and pari-mutuel horse race betting. But the bill still faces some major political opposition.
Betting Laws in South Carolina
More than five million people live in South Carolina, a southeastern U.S. state known for its shoreline of subtropical beaches and marsh-like sea islands. And don't forget golf. Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular golf vacation destinations in the country. Columbia is the state capital and its largest city by population with more than 130,000 residents.
Gambling laws in the Palmetto State — whether it's playing the lottery or enjoying one of the casino cruises — are regulated by agencies at the state level.
All legalized gambling in South Carolina is limited to the following areas:
- Casino cruise ships
- Charitable gambling
Gamblers must be 21 years old to board the casino boats in South Carolina and 18 to play the state lottery.
Unlike most of its neighbors, there are no land-based casinos or tribal casinos in operation in South Carolina. It’s unlawful to even own gambling devices or tables, even if they are not being used in any way for promotion of gambling. Their mere possession constitutes an illegal act.
However, the state does allow casino boats where play is offered year-round. The two casino boats leave from Little River on daily five-hour cruises. The ship must travel three miles into international waters before gambling can begin. The Big M Casino offers blackjack, craps, roulette, three card poker, let it ride, slots and video poker.
Land-based casino options at North Carolina's two Harrah's Cherokee properties are three to four hours away from South Carolina by car.
There are also no horse tracks, dog tracks, pari-mutuel facilities or off-track betting options to be found in the state. South Carolina does offer a few annual steeplechase and equestrian events, but patrons cannot wager on these competitions.
The South Carolina Education Lottery began in 2002. It offers scratch-off tickets and daily draws, like the Palmetto Cash 5. Like most U.S. lotteries, on January 2010 it joined the cross-sell lottery expansion adding Mega Millions.
Today, it also participates in other multi-jurisdictional games like Lucky for Life and Powerball. These multi-state lotteries have the largest jackpots available in South Carolina, with the Powerball jackpot starting at $40 million and increasing from there.
South Carolina Sports Betting Laws
The most recent gambling proposal, which was submitted late in 2018, would allow for full Vegas-style casinos in South Carolina. In addition, the bill would also allow for the introduction of pari-mutuel wagering and sports betting on professional sports, which would include teams in neighboring North Carolina like the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers.
The bill, which proposes an amendment to South Carolina’s state constitution, has had no movement or updates since January 2019. It may not be dead yet, but it's still not a good sign in this anti-gambling state. As well, the path to legalization is long and would require a voter referendum to approve it, even if the bill makes it through the legislative body.
As such, offshore online sites like Bovada enjoy little competition in South Carolina, especially with few out-of-state options for residents in the Palmetto State. Neighboring Georgia has no casinos, while North Carolina has two tribal casinos in the western part of the state.
While many states — like New Jersey and Pennsylvania — have embraced the changing times and now allow sports betting at land-based venues, it may take some time in South Carolina.
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South Carolina's Favorite Sports Teams
South Carolina may not be home to any professional sports teams, but it certainly has two universities that fill that void.
The Clemson Tigers, who have won the national football championship three times (1981, 2016, 2018), are one of the most elite college programs in the country. Clemson's run of eight consecutive 10-win seasons ranks second in active streaks behind the Alabama Crimson Tide. The South Carolina Gamecocks, who like Clemson were also founded in 1896, play out of the state capital.
The closest pro teams to South Carolina are the three franchises in North Carolina — the NFL's Carolina Panthers, NBA's Charlotte Hornets and NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. Their neighbors to the west in Georgia also have pro clubs in the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, NBA's Atlanta Hawks and MLB's Atlanta Braves.