Legalization Of South Carolina Gambling Faces An Uphill Battle
Legal Sports Report

South Carolina Probably Isn’t Trying To Join The Sports Betting Fight; It’s Just Eyeing Casino Gambling

South Carolina sports betting
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South Carolina is the latest state to introduce legislation that would attempt to legalize sports betting in the state, in addition to other forms of gambling.

First things first: South Carolina is not a gambling state

The bill in South Carolina is not a “sports betting only” bill the likes of which we have seen in New Jersey to challenge federal law on that issue. It would be a massive expansion of gambling in the state, if passed.

The state has:

  • Bingo halls on tribal lands
  • Casino cruises, but no land-based casinos
  • Lottery

So, far from just allowing sports betting, this bill would allow for casino-style gambling in the state. That is a much bigger issue, on the state politics level, than the isolated topic of sports wagering.

South Carolina is a conservative state, and the prospects of a gambling expansion of this magnitude faces an uphill battle.

A look at the SC casino bill

Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat, introduced the bill (H 3102) late in 2016. A similar bill was introduced last year, as well, but went nowhere. (Daily fantasy sports regulation was on the statehouse’s radar, as well, but was not enacted in 2016.)

The bill would amend the state constitution, and would require a referendum to take effect.

It is at least interesting to note that sports betting is listed separately as a form of gambling authorized by the state, should the amendment take effect (emphasis added):

“Section 16. The General Assembly by law may provide in specified areas of the State for the conduct of gambling and gaming activities on which bets are made to include pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, sports betting on professional sports, casino activities, such as card and dice games where the skill of the player is involved in the outcome, and games of chance with the use of electronic devices or gaming tables, all of which strictly must be regulated and may be conducted in one location or in separate locations within the specified area, with the revenue realized by the State and local jurisdictions to be used for highway, road, and bridge maintenance, construction, and repair.

Betting on collegiate athletics would not be allowed, it appears, under the bill’s language.

Would SC scuttle its larger gambling plans with sports betting?

At least some lawmakers view casino gambling as a way to pay for crumbling infrastructure in the state.

This is not like the New Jersey sports betting case, or planned legislation in New York. Both states are attempting to circumvent the federal law — PASPA — that prevents single-game wagering outside of Nevada.

It’s not clear South Carolina has any desire to enter that fray. Legalizing sports betting within its borders would likely spark a court battle with professional sports leagues, which have fought New Jersey’s efforts for years.

So, the casino amendment is likely a catch-all. If the state is going about changing its constitution to allow gambling, it might as well take care of all of it at one time.

The bill itself doesn’t set up casinos or licensing; that would come after the amendment is approved by the legislature and the public (via a referendum). Those are obviously two giant “ifs,” at this point.

It’s certainly interesting that sports betting appears in the South Carolina casino bill. And having more states interested in the subject of sports betting is always a welcome development. But right now, the endgame doesn’t appear to be a direct assault on PASPA.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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