South Carolina’s Sports Betting Hopes Fizzle Out in Final Days of Session
Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: South Carolina Gamecocks mascot.
South Carolina will keep waiting for legal sports betting, as an effort to green light it in 2022 comes to a halt.
With just nine days before lawmakers return for a special session, there’s still an abundance of steps needed before they can vote on H.B. 5277. The bill would legalize online sports betting, but according to multiple sources that won’t happen.
“It’s over and done with. It’s received no action,” said a staffer for William Herbkersman (R), who introduced the bill back in April.
Under the bill 80% of sports betting tax revenue would have gone to education, with the remaining dollars split up between counties and mental health services.
Election Year Complicated Votes
It’s the second year in a row South Carolina’s considered sports betting, which is a sign of progress after a few years without any bills. Sports betting has been a tougher sell in the Deep South. Alabama and Georgia flirted with it this year as well, though they’ll also have to try again next year.
“It’s done, but I think that next year, once we get out of the election year, there’ll be a real conversation,” said Brandt Iden, head of government affairs at Sportradar and a former Michigan state representative. “Election years are always tough, that’s why we’ve only seen two states pass this year.
The two state’s Iden’s referencing are Maine and Kansas, which became the 34th and 35th states to legalize earlier this year.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), who’s opposed to sports betting, is up for reelection in November.
Joe Cunningham, one of his opponents vying for the democratic ticket, has been vocal about legalizing; claiming sports betting could generate $100 million in taxes a year.
About 30% of incumbent House lawmakers are running in “contested primaries”, according to Ballotpedia.com. That could be why no one in the House was willing to even hold a hearing on the bill.
“I never had it on my radar because I never saw a path forward for sports betting,” said John Pappas, state advocacy director at iDEA Growth, which advocates for state gaming expansions. “There’s a very strong anti-gambling sentiment historically in South Carolina and politics always plays a part.”
FanDuel, DraftKings Already There
South Carolina does have daily fantasy sports, a reasonable alternative to sports betting.
While it’s not expressly legal in the state, it’s not been deemed illegal either. That’s allowed FanDuel, DraftKings and others to already have a presence in the state.
It positions South Carolina to launch relatively quickly if it ever legalizes, but don’t expect anything new on that until next year.