South Carolina legislators have introduced a new bill seeking to legalize sports betting. Bipartisan House Bill 5277 -the second try in three years to achieve this goal- aims to open a legal market for both online and retail sports gaming in the Palmetto State, and is sponsored by Rep. William Herbkersman (R) and Rep. Todd Rutherford (D).
The legislation was introduced on Thursday, and seeks to allow between eight and 12 online betting platforms to operate in the state. Professional sports franchises, facilities that host PGA Tour events, and promoters of a national association for stock car auto racing national touring race would be eligible for a license, and to partner with an operator.
In terms of taxation, the bill calls for a 10% rate on adjusted gross sports betting revenue. Entities approved to conduct operations would pay a $500,000 annual license fee and non-refundable application fee. HB 5277 would not only allow betting on pro sports and college sports but also esports, a market that not all states offer.
As the legislative session ends on June 15, supporters believe there is sufficient time to reach an agreement on the bill and ensure its passage. The legislation calls for 80% of revenue to be allocated to the education lottery account, 15% to the general fund, and 5% to the Department of Mental Health to develop responsible gaming programs and to provide treatment services for problem gambling.
The bill further states bettors must be at least 21 years old to engage in sports betting, and professional athletes may not wager on the sports in which they participate. However, what’s notable about the legislation is that it specifically mentions cryptocurrency, digital currency, and foreign currency as funding mechanisms. While crypto has been gaining momentum as a funding option in iGaming, sports betting operators have thus far shown certain reticence to introduce it within their sector.
The legislation calls for a Lottery Commission Sports Wagering Advisory Council to be established, which would advise on best practices and provide both administrative and technical assistance to the state lottery. The new entity would consist of nine members: the governor, Senate president, and speaker of the House would appoint three each.
The usage of official league data is mentioned, and the bill notes it will be required as long as a sports governing body requests it. This provision has already been met with opposition from operators in the handful of states where it is enforced, meaning the same scenario is likely to happen in South Carolina once the debate on the proposal begins.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Its introduction comes only a couple of years after HB 3395 was introduced in 2020, also by Rutherford. That prior attempt sought to legalize sports gaming in the state via a constitutional amendment, but it never came up for a vote, remaining in committee since early 2021.
Neighboring North Carolina currently permits in-person sports gaming at two tribal casinos, while legislators work on getting online sports betting legislation passed. Georgia, the only other state that borders South Carolina, has thus far failed time after time to legalize its market.