On Thursday, officials in South Carolina introduced a sports betting bill for the second time in three years.
House Bill 5277, which aims to legalize online and retail sports betting in South Carolina, is sponsored by Rep. William Herbkersman (R) and Rep. Todd Rutherford (D).
This bipartisan attempt to legalize sports wagering in South Carolina offers the opportunity for between eight and 12 online sports betting platforms to operate in the state. Entities such as professional sports franchises, PGA Tour event hosts, and even promoters for national stock car auto racing events would be eligible to apply for a sports betting license, as well as partner with an operator.
Wagering on college, esports in the bill
The bill calls for a tax rate of 10% on adjusted gross sports betting revenue. Entities approved for a sports betting license would pay a $500,000 annual license fee and non-refundable application fee.
Betting on professional sports as well as both college sports and esports, two markets limited in some states, would be allowed under HB 5277.
According to the bill’s language, 80% of revenue from sports betting would be allocated to the education lottery account, 15% to the general fund (transportation, roads, public buildings), and 5% to the Department of Mental Health for problem and responsible gaming programs.
The bill calls for bettors to be at least 21 years old to participate in the activity.
Official league data may be a requirement
The bill also notes that cryptocurrency, digital currency, and foreign currency could serve as funding options. A Lottery Commission Sports Wagering Advisory Council would be established and would advise on best practices and provide “administrative and technical” assistance to the lottery. The council would consist of nine members, three each appointed by the governor, Senate president, and speaker of the House.
In one section of the bill that explains who is not eligible to place a sports bet, it spells out “a professional athlete if the wager is based on a sport or athletic event overseen by the athlete’s sports governing body,” meaning, for example, that an NFL player cannot bet on NFL games, but could bet on the NBA, NHL, or Major League Baseball.
It’s also noted that official league data would be required should a sports governing body request it. To date, only a handful of states have an official league data provision, including Michigan and Illinois. In West Virginia, which like South Carolina is not home to any major professional sports teams, lawmakers initially considered requiring the use of official league data, but abandoned the idea during the legislative process. As South Carolina’s bill moves forward, operators will likely push back and ask that the data requirement be removed.
The introduction of HB 5277 in South Carolina comes only a few years after HB 3395 — which was an attempt to legalize sports betting via a constitutional amendment — was introduced by Rutherford in 2020. That bill earmarked sports betting tax revenue for highway, road, and bridge upkeep.
More than 30 states have legalized sports betting in some form since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. Neighboring North Carolina has in-person betting at two tribal casinos, and an online sports betting bill is working its way through the state legislature there. Georgia, the only other state that borders South Carolina, has tried and failed to legalize wagering in each of the last three sessions.
So far in 2022, no states have legalized sports betting, though bills are moving through multiple state houses, including in Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri.