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Is 2023 the Year That Legal Sports Betting Could Come to South Carolina?



South Carolina’s House minority leader has called for a constitutional amendment that would enable lawmakers to vote on the legalization of sports betting in the Palmetto State.
J. Todd Rutherford has filed a resolution that proposes a change to Article XVII of the Constitution of South Carolina, and if passed it would allow for sports wagering, casino gaming and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.

It’s a lengthy process before gambling can be legalized in a state, with the necessarylegislation and licensing applications taking more than a year – in the cases of Louisiana and Maryland – to be agreed and finalized. The next legislative session in South Carolina gets underway on January 10, so it may even be 2024 before sports betting is legalized in the state if it’s given the green light.

Rutherford’s proposal does not indicate whether college sports betting would be part of the package, although with the University of South Carolina and Clemson being amongst the most successful NCAA colleges, it would be a surprise if it didn’t. Schools like the College of Charleston continue to produce excellent results, too.

The Democratic representative has set out how the tax revenue generated from gambling would be spent in SC, with ‘highway, road, and bridge maintenance, construction, and repair’ mentioned specifically in his proposal.

Changing Landscape

It was in 2020 that the door to legal sports betting in the United States was opened by the repeal of PASPA – the old legislation that made wagering illegal in the vast majority of states.

Now, the decision on whether to allow gambling is decided at state level, with Tennessee and Virginia amongst the south-eastern states that have already legalized retail and online sports betting.

Indeed, the east of the country has been particularly proactive in lifting the prohibition on gambling. New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana have already removed their respective bans, and they were joined in January 2021 by legal sports betting in Michigan. There, bettors can wager on all manner of sports at licensed operators such as FanDuel, Caesars and BetMGM, and even live stream the latest sporting action on their smartphone and tablet computers.

Some states have opted for a retail-only approach, which sees licensed venues like sports stadiums and racetracks accepting bets in person and often on selected days only. But the motion presented by Rutherford would, if passed, would bring this form of entertainment to South Carolina, enabling bettors to access odds and markets at any given time.

Closer to home, both North Carolina and Georgia have already discussed lifting the prohibition on online sports betting, but neither passed any such bill – the motion in NC failing by just a single vote.

It’s thought that a new motion will be discussed during the 2023 legislative session in North Carolina, while in Georgia, a proposed sports betting bill has been voted down in each of the last two years, with staunch opposition to it in the House. Even the lure of a 20% tax rate, which is much higher than that of most other jurisdictions, could not convince the House in the Peach State to show any support.

It’s estimated that legal sports betting in the United States has already raised more than $2 billion in taxation, and that has been considered vital income at a time of tough economic conditions. In New York, more than $500 million in tax was charged to the sector between January and October 2022 alone, so it’s clear why gambling might appeal to state legislators.

However, it’s notable that North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida are yet to legalize sports betting, while Mississippi has only a small handful of legal retail sportsbook venues. All told, the southeast has remained resistant to gambling.

And so it is likely to need a complete sea-change in perspective before sports betting is legalized in South Carolina.

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