Online gambling wasn’t always illegal in South Carolina. Video gambling took the state by storm during the 1990s. And according to a report from 1999, as many as 29,000 machines were operating throughout the state. The Grand Strand and Horry County were at the forefront of video game operation, generating $88 million in revenue within just three months.
Regulating online gambling proved tough in the end, and a state legislature passed in June 1999 outlawing all forms of video gambling unless a referendum came out in public support. The South Carolina Supreme Court later killed the referendum vote, leaving Grand Strand businesses searching for alternate revenue streams.
The Current Legal Environment
According to ex-South Carolina Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, the authorities have sufficient expertise to deal with past mistakes. And the authorities should revaluate the strict laws against online gambling. Increasing taxes on existing income sources is always a struggle at the statehouse. Jim hopes legalizing online gambling will generate new income streams for the state coffers by taxing online operators.
The additional income could benefit state-sponsored activities like public safety, education, and elderly care. According to the official information received during budget session 2020, gamers currently pay a $10 boarding fee on South Carolina’s floating casinos, which is estimated to bring roughly $100,000 a year. Additionally, by increasing the general fees, the casinos have been able to pay staff salaries.
The South Carolina Education Lottery is a state-approved gambling endeavor benefitting educational institutions. According to the board’s website, the lottery generated over $4.4 billion for higher education and $960 million for K-12 education since its inception in 2002. Rex says while revenue from the education lottery has immensely benefitted education endeavors, the state coffers haven’t been able to recuperate much.
What Lies Ahead?
The authorities need to take a stand at the Senate level. A Bill was passed in the South Carolina House and Senate back in 2018, with a request for loosening the grip against online gambling. Both Bills are currently stuck even after two consecutive legislative cycles. State representative William Bailey says it’s going to require a massive outpour of public support to get the Horry County authorities on board with the legislation to legalize gambling.
The primary problem state representatives have with new casinos coming up is the fear of introducing gambling addiction among the masses. Former State Treasurer, Converse Chellis, is worried legalizing online gambling could ruin the family values of the Palmetto State, disrupting southern hospitality. This isn’t a novel thought, however, and was previously brought up while discussing sites in Newark City.
Online casinos and sportsbooks also mean greater competition for the existing floating casinos, putting unnecessary stress on these businesses. This brings us back to the question at hand. When will South Carolina legalize online gambling? The short answer to the question is while a faction of administrators is on board with the idea, there’s quite a bit of resistance from existing casino operators. Unless these differences are sorted, there is no respite in sight.