A South Carolina senator is filing for an amendment to be made to the state’s constitution in advance of the new legislative session in 2019.
The amendment would enable the expansion of gambling laws expand to allow pari-mutuel betting for horse racing, sports betting and games of chance.
This bill contains a separate resolution that would see the formation of a committee to examine the effects of gambling in the region. However, the state traditionally has been very resistant to expansionary gambling law changes, so there are many obstacles to be negotiated.
Opposition runs deep
South Carolina is one of the southern states that has long been opposed to gambling. There are no casinos (apart from casino cruises), poker is illegal, sports betting is illegal and only the lottery and some forms of bingo are allowed.
It is perhaps the most restrictive state in the country when it comes to these matters. The only legitimate gambling in the state is the lottery, which began in 2001. This includes the state lottery offering, as well as the multi-state Mega Millions and Power Ball games.
Certain charities are also able to offer some bingo games, although they are heavily curtailed. The state constitution has a range of harsh penalties in place for those who violate the gambling laws.
Those who partake in these games are not allowed to hold any sort of office and if someone in office is found to be gambling they face removal if they get a conviction. Therefore, the chances for this sports betting bill on the surface do not look positive.
Strong anti-gambling measures have been taking place even in recent years, including breaking up cards games taking place in retirement homes. The Republican Party has been in control in South Carolina for many years and this stance reflects their conservative values.
The governor, Senate and House of Representatives are all in the control of Republicans. The Governor Jerry McMaster got a four-year term following the recent election – he is opposed to the state lottery. It would be highly surprising to see him change his stance on gambling any time soon. The same goes for the Republican-dominated houses.
A massive hurdle
This means Senator Gerald Malloy, who is a Democrat, faces a massively uphill battle to get any bill through. But it will be even harder to get a bill passed on an issue such as gambling, which the Republicans have long been sternly against. Vetoes can and will be utilized.
Even if such a bill got through all of the respective establishments, there would still be a public ballot in order to change the constitution. To date, the voting public doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic about expanding the gambling laws.
Potential green shoots
Despite this gloomy outlook, there are some positive signs that may hint towards future changes.
Other southern states that traditionally have been opposed to expanding gambling have already looked into legalizing sports betting.
Mississippi and West Virginia have both enjoyed great success since opening up their respective sportsbooks. Others in the region such as Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina are all also considering legalization.
It is an exciting time and no doubt that a lot of developments will be taking place in the space, with many proposal bills being put forward for discussion.
Many people in North Carolina are pushing for widespread changes. One of them is the new owner of the Carolina Panther, David Tepper. There is a chance that this support could filter down to South Carolina.
While it appears very likely that any bill will be passed for sports betting in South Carolina during 2019, there is already some progress being made on the issue, once the 2019 legislative sessions begin.