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Proposed South Carolina Horse Betting Bill Faces Senate Opposition

Written By Derek Helling on April 17, 2023
horse racing south carolina gambling betting

Like an aged former champion racehorse, a bill to expand legal online gambling options in South Carolina might be already past its prime. Members of the state’s Senate seem unfavorable to the proposition of adding betting on horse races online to the list.

Additionally, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster would surprise everyone if he went for the idea.

The South Carolina House of Representatives has advanced the legislation regardless. The item acts as a barometer for the potential legalization of other online gambling forms in the state.

South Carolina online gambling expansion seems ill-timed

For H.3514 sponsor Rep. Russell Ott, the bill might just be a bit ahead of its time. Nonetheless, the House approved the bill by a 55 to 46 margin on April 6. It is awaiting a second reading in the state’s Senate, however.

Last Tuesday, that body’s Family and Veterans’ Services Committee reported it favorably. Currently, it’s unclear whether that simply means the bill will proceed to another committee and if so, which. That is likely the case, however.

H.3514 might languish in some Senate committee eventually. That body has resisted other gambling expansion measures recently. That includes a constitutional amendment proposal giving the legislature power to determine which forms of South Carolina online gambling will be legal.

Furthermore, a bill that is nearly identical to H.3514 has sat in committee in the Senate since early February.

H.3514 is a narrower proposition. It would legalize online pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in the state. As many as three different platforms would obtain licenses under the bill’s tenets. In addition to licensing fees, the state would impose a 10% privilege tax on operators’ revenue from gambling pools.

The bill earmarks most of that money for the state’s horse racing industry. It’s that revenue that Ott believes could be an eventual selling point.

Sponsor points to perceived popularity of betting on horse races

According to Jeffrey Collins of the Associated Press, Ott shared a map of South Carolina that revealed heavy attempts by residents of the state’s major cities to use online pari-mutuel wagering platforms legal in other states. He mentioned the potential revenue the state could have pulled in had those attempts been successful.

However, H.3514 might not see much more success regardless of Ott’s pleas. Even if the state Senate should unexpectedly pass the bill, it seems McMaster won’t add his signature. That’s based on the comment from his Administration’s chief of staff.

For that reason, those hoping for the legalization of South Carolina casinos or sportsbooks any time soon shouldn’t hold their breath.

Gambling expansion opposition ideological

As Collins reports, those who opposed H.3514 in the House shared they did so for what they perceived as moral reasons. They cited experiencing people struggling with compulsive gambling addiction as part of the reason.

McMaster also made opposing gambling expansion part of his campaign platform to win reelection in 2022. That represented a stark contrast from his Democratic opponent in the race, Joe Cunningham, who advocated for legalizing South Carolina sports betting.

While some Republicans did vote for H.3514 in the state House, gambling expansion currently remains a largely partisan issue in South Carolina. That’s a substantial obstacle as the party opposed to the premise, the GOP, holds a trifecta.

For the time being, that means proposals along these lines are likely to never reach the finish line. However, proposals by Ott and others at least keep the issue active should Republicans shift on the matter.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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