South Carolina remains one of the United States’ longest of longshots to legalize gambling, let alone online gambling. It is unusual to describe a gambling situation as tragic. Some states, like Utah, have never been fans of games of chance at all. Other states have gradually introduced elements of gaming and have steadily increased their participation or held relatively steady. South Carolina, on the other hand, may be the only state in the US to have dipped its toes in the water, then run screaming in the opposite direction.
While gambling is a political no-go, a 2017 poll showed 70% of South Carolina residents want gambling legalized if the money is used to fix roads. But the path ahead for the state to legalize any form of gambling is a rough one. Online gambling and online casinos of any kind are forbidden in South Carolina, and the state has some of the strictest laws regarding gambling in general. The only legal options for residents and visitors are sweepstakes casino sites that offer a variety of online slots and table games. In any event, here is all the info about gambling, or the lack thereof, in South Carolina.
Sweepstakes Casinos in South Carolina
Can you gamble online in South Carolina?
No, there is no legal online gambling allowed in South Carolina. South Carolina’s gambling laws are some of the strictest in the nation. Rarely are statutes written with so little ambiguity. The laws are more analogous to drug laws than the ones typically seen in gambling regulations. There are no legal online sports betting sites in South Carolina either. The only online option available to residents and visitors are sweepstakes sites.
Are online casinos legal in South Carolina?
No, there are no legal online casinos of any kind in South Carolina. In fact, South Carolina bars most forms of gambling. The laws are fairly specific too, with the punishment for hosting or playing any gaming as follows:
“… shall be imprisoned for a period of not over thirty days or fined not over one hundred dollars, and every person so keeping such tavern, inn, retail store, public place, or house used as a place for gaming or such other house shall, upon being convicted thereof, upon indictment, be imprisoned for a period not exceeding twelve months and forfeit a sum not exceeding two thousand dollars, for each and every offense.”
The exception to this rule is sweepstakes casinos such as LuckyLand Slots and Funzpoints. These casino sites operate with a dual currency system that allows them to maintain the separation from chips you buy and chips that pay. You can find a variety of online slots on these sites, as well as a limited selection of table games.
Can you play online poker in South Carolina?
Nope. We hate to be repetitive but no form of online gambling is legal in South Carolina, including online poker. The best legal option for playing poker online in South Carolina is Global Poker, a sweepstakes site similar to Luckyland and Funzpoints. The difference is that Global Poker is focused on, well, poker but has a pretty nice (if not robust) selection of slots games, too.
Will South Carolina regulate online gambling in the future?
Seeing as how a bill attempting to bring gambling to South Carolina died without even a committee hearing in 2021, and that Gov. Henry McMaster said in 2018 that gambling “flies in the face of everything South Carolina stands for,” chances are poor.
In 2020, House Resolution 3395, would have amended the state constitution so the state could “provide for the conduct of gambling and gaming activities on which bets are made to include pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, sports betting on professional sports, casino activities, such as card and dice games where the skill of the player is involved in the outcome, and games of chance with the use of electronic devices or gaming tables…”
It failed even though gambling revenues were earmarked for “highway, road, and bridge maintenance, construction, and repair.”
The same fate befell Senate Resolution 98, which said:
“The general assembly may provide for the conduct of gambling and gaming activities in certain areas of the state under certain circumstances, to provide that any gambling or gaming activities must be strictly regulated, to provide for the allocation of any revenues; and proposing an amendment to section 8, article xvii of the constitution of South Carolina, 1895, relating to officers gambling and betting, by deleting section 8, to delete the provision that makes it unlawful for a person holding an office of honor, trust, or profit to engage in gambling or betting on games of chance, and to require an officer’s removal from office upon conviction for a gambling offense.”
We aren’t saying it won’t happen in South Carolina, but at this point, don’t bet on it. As in not a snowball’s chance in Myrtle Beach.
Legal online casinos in South Carolina
Given the incredibly restrictive nature of gambling in South Carolina, there should be no grey areas when considering playing online real money casinos there. Put simply: You can’t play legally and you will be fined or imprisoned if you do. No matter how alluring or “legally” promising some websites seem to be, be aware of the implications and risks. If you do find a “legal” casino site that offers play in South Carolina, it is most likely an offshore site.
You don’t want to get involved with an offshore gambling website. Instead of tax dollars from your bets going to fix that pothole in Darlington or help build that new school in Columbia, it’s going to another country. And your money might stay there forever even if you win. The sites also offer no legal recourse if there are issues or your account is hacked. The laws are murky, and an offshore site is not bound by the consumer protections and laws of the US or South Carolina. By using an illegal site, you have no recourse if you are cheated out of your winnings or even your deposit. Simply put: It’s not worth it.
Instead, try one of the sweepstakes casino sites mentioned above. They are legal to play in South Carolina and offer the same or similar slots and table games as those you might find at an offshore site. But you won’t be going to jail if you play them.
Responsible gambling resources in SC
The contempt with which gambling is held by conservative and religious factions in South Carolina can make getting help a stigmatizing process. Don’t let it. South Carolina doesn’t necessarily make getting help easy, as it is woefully less-equipped on a state level. However, national resources are available in the state, including:
You can also reach the South Carolina Problem Gambling Hotline at 877-452-5155.
Who regulates gambling in South Carolina?
The South Carolina Department of Revenue Bingo Licensing and Enforcement oversees what scarce little “gambling” is available there. If a gambling crime is known, it immediately falls under the jurisdiction of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
What is the legal gambling age?
You can play the popular state lottery and what social games exist in South Carolina at age 18.
Types of legal gambling in South Carolina
Yes, there is very little legal gambling in SC, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing at all. The only exceptions are strictly controlled social games (home poker games, mahjong, bridge, etc.), the state lottery, and charitable bingo games.
Are there casinos in South Carolina?
There are no casinos in South Carolina. Much like Georgia, South Carolina’s position on casinos is quite clear. The one lone exception to this for South Carolinians is to take one of two casino cruises. These depart from Little River (near Myrtle Beach) and are both operated by The Big “M” Casino company.
There are some options in nearby states if South Carolinians are willing to drive, but even that is limited. There are so-called fish tables in North Carolina. Tribal casinos are scattered mostly in the western sector of NC, however. The Catabwa tribe has casinos in North Carolina, and though it owns reservation land in Rock Hill, no casino projects have been given the green light, as there are a lot of hoops to jump through. To the south is Georgia, and that’s a gambling wasteland, too.
|Property||Location||Distance from Columbia||Distance from Charleston|
|Big M Casino (casino cruises)||Little River, SC||166 miles||120 miles|
|Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort||Cherokee, NC||198 miles||307 miles|
|Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel||Murphy, NC||256 miles||365 miles|
Is horse betting legal in South Carolina?
There is no live pari-mutuel racing in South Carolina and wagering is not allowed there using sites like TVG. Furthermore, the state is home to no racetracks of any kind.
History of gambling in South Carolina
It used to be quite a sight. South Carolina had tens of thousands of video lottery terminals — which were de facto video poker machines. In October 1999, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the machines were unconstitutional. They were required to be shut down by June 2000, which they were. At that point, a large portion of public opinion had turned against the machines. In no small part because of a particularly brutal story of a baby suffocating while its mother played video poker. Unfortunately, South Carolinians blamed the presence of the machines for this tragedy. As such, the multi-billion-dollar industry vanished in the summer of 2000.
This reversal is unique. Most states either introduce gambling slowly and increase offerings steadily over decades, or they introduce minimal gambling, like lotteries and racetracks, and stand pat. For a state to withdraw to an anti-gambling position is quite remarkable. For a state to reverse into one of the most restrictive situations in the country is even odder.
And yet, that is the situation in South Carolina. The gambling statutes for the Palmetto State are among the most restrictive in the US. It is illegal to have casino gambling, so there are no casinos within state lines. There are also no horse tracks, dog tracks, pari-mutuel facilities, or off-track betting options to be found. Furthermore, it’s unlawful to even own gambling devices or tables, even if they are not being used in any way for the promotion of gambling. Their mere possession constitutes an illegal act.
Some gambling laws in South Carolina pre-date the Civil War, which began with the firing on Fort Sumter there. The Union eventually won and covered.
Key dates in South Carolina gambling
1802: South Carolina Legislature amends its constitution to make all gambling illegal.
1999: South Carolina Supreme Court rules that the wildly popular video game terminals are illegal.
2007: Catawba Tribe loses court fight to stage video gaming on tribal property.
2009: Five men are tried on illegal gambling charges for playing poker in one of their homes. They are cleared.
2012: State Supreme Court rules that social gambling is not legal.
2015: A bill seeking to introduce commercial casinos and a host of other gambling activities fails.
2016: A daily fantasy bill is shut down by the state Legislature. Sites like DraftKings and FanDuel operate in a legal gray area in the state.
2017: A poll reveals that nearly 70% of South Carolina residents want gambling legalized if the money is used to fix roads.
2021: Bills to legalize all forms of gambling are proposed by Democrats but die in committee. In July 2021, it was announced a study had begun on the potential benefits of a horse betting industry in SC.