A bipartisan bill — H5277 — was introduced in the South Carolina legislature on Thursday that could make retail and mobile sports wagering a reality. But it still has a long way to go before then.
After being presented to the state’s 124th General Assembly, the bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill is sponsored by state representatives William Herbkersman (R) and Todd Rutherford (D).
The current legislative session in South Carolina ends June 15.
Timing of the bill comes as its neighbor to the north could soon take up mobile North Carolina sports betting when the legislature returns next month. A mobile sports betting bill was approved by the Senate last year, but didn’t move in the House.
North Carolina SB 688 would also increase the number of brick-and-mortar locations that can have sports betting, with professional sports stadiums and arenas given priority in the bill. One thing sure to be looked at by the House is the tax rate. Gov. Roy Cooper, a supporter of mobile sports betting in the state, said recently that he would like to see the state get a bigger share.
The tax rate of 8% in the proposed North Carolina bill is one of the lowest ones in the U.S. market. Virginia and Tennessee have higher rates than North Carolina and New York taxes operators at a 51% rate.
It is estimated that North Carolina could bring in more than $20 million in additional tax revenue from mobile sports betting apps.
Retail sports betting is legal in North Carolina at two Cherokee casinos in the western part of the state. The first legal bet was placed in March 2021. It is expected that a casino near Charlotte that’s run by Catawbas of South Carolina would also offer sports betting.
Already having legal retail sports betting with a bill expanding to mobile and other retail sites already clearing the state Senate puts North Carolina closer to mobile. And although North Carolina has an abbreviated session beginning next month, the framework of an expanded sports betting bill already exists.
South Carolina would seem to have a much longer road to mobile sports betting.
What's in the South Carolina Bill?
Here are some of the highlights of H5277 that was introduced this week in South Carolina:
- Licenses for 8-12 mobile sports betting providers;
- A $500,000 application fee for operators;
- A 10% tax rate on operators (which is higher than the proposed tax rate in North Carolina);
- The possibility of cryptocurrency funding;
- Allows for college sports betting (there are no professional teams from the four major leagues in the state).
A Tough Sell in the South
Sports betting has not had an easy path to legalization in Southern states. But it has started opening up.
Virginia and Tennessee currently have all-mobile sports betting markets, Louisiana has retail and mobile, and Mississippi has retail sportsbooks. The road to Louisiana sports betting was years in the making and had to be approved in a referendum. Adding statewide mobile betting in Mississippi was defeated in the legislature this year.
Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama have recently discussed and worked bills, but could not get across the finish line in the legislatures. Florida amended its compact with the Seminole Tribe to offer mobile sports betting, but a federal court struck it down.
Previously in South Carolina, Rutherford has co-sponsored bill H3395, which has been in the Judiciary Committee since it was introduced on Jan. 12, 2021, and would legalize gambling in the state through constitutional amendment.
H5277 presents a more direct path and a quicker approach to possible approval should it move forward.
The state shall wait and see, as will its neighbors to the north.