The Supreme Court struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling by a 6-3 vote on Monday, May 14.
It clears the way for states to start racing for a stake in the billions of dollars that were illegally wagered on sports. What once regularly took place on the black market of illicit bookmakers and offshore operations can now legally and easily take place on mobile devices and be subjected to taxation.
New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia are among at least five states that had passed pro-gambling laws in anticipation of the ruling. As many as three dozen states are poised to allow it within five years.
Now comes the question as to how long it will take South Carolina to enact its own regulations – or if it ever allows it at all. While the state does run a lottery, it took until 2015 for it to allow church raffles.
“You don’t want to inadvertently legalize it, like what happened with video poker the first time,” Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said. “We’ll take a look at it and if it might be a good thing for South Carolina. I do think it’s going to be viewed skeptically. South Carolina has always been reluctant to get involved in organized gambling because there are a lot of other negative elements that come with it.”
S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford sponsored a bill in the Legislature this past session that would have authorized betting on horse racing and professional sports as a way for revenue to be collected by the state. It died when the regular session adjourned.
“I’ve been to Camden for the Carolina Cup, and everybody is betting,” Rutherford told The State newspaper.
“They have a president who owns casinos who made a lot of money out of gambling, and yet they still pretend like people aren’t going to bet,” Rutherford, a Democrat, said of the state’s Republican leadership. “People don’t want to break the law. They want to do it legally.”
Rep. Russell Ott, who co-sponsored a proposal to ask voters if they would approve for casinos to be built but did not get a subcommittee hearing, told the Post and Courier that South Carolina is missing out on a way to raise revenue for prison staffing, teacher pay and infrastructure.
“This is something states will move aggressively toward, and we need to move sooner rather than later so we’re not late to the game and playing catch-up,” Ott said.
Gov. Henry McMaster does not want any gambling authorized by South Carolina. He had lined up against the creation of the state’s lottery in 2000 when he was chair of the SC Republican Party.
“It flies in the face of everything South Carolina stands for,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said.
Legalized gambling will likely have more support along the South Carolina coast to draw tourism dollars than it would in the Upstate, Rep. Bruce Bannister, a Greenville Republican and member of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Greenville News, but he described the chances of the entire state to allows it as “very small.”
“(Coastal lawmakers) probably would have the most keen interest on anything that could attract and promote the tourism industry,” Bannister said. “So for those guys, I think they would probably look at it just from a numbers standpoint — is that something we want to explore, is that something that would be beneficial to our area? I don’t think the Upstate guys would necessarily look at that as a benefit.”
Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a firm that tracks gambling legislation, expects North Carolina to be among the states that allows gambling within five years and Georgia in a timeframe after that. It counts South Carolina as a state that might never get on the board.