The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday to strike down the federal prohibition of sports gambling and wagering, and I believe it’s time for South Carolina and its legislature to act swiftly.
I don’t pretend to know what is inside the moral compass of South Carolinians.
I’ve lived in six different states and two different countries and it would be fair to say I’ve taken a little part of each place with me.
I understand the risks and pitfalls of allowing sports gambling to (in the words of hardcore conservatives) “infiltrate our state” and “create a slippery slope”.
What I also understand is, this is very much like the California gold rush of 1849, and the biggest thing there was it paid to be first.
The South Carolina state legislature has a resolution on the books, House Bill #3102 that would allow “sports betting on professional sports”. This bill has not come to a vote, and likely won’t do so until the reopening of the legislative session, if at all.
The largely conservative and Republican legislature laughs at the notion of sports gambling and wagering, including a Governor’s spokesman telling the Charleston Post and Courier the proposed legislation, “Is a loser and inconsistent with the core beliefs of South Carolinians.”
To that I politely ask the Governor, “So your core beliefs are, ‘you hate free money?'”.
The state of New Jersey, who brought this argument to the Supreme Court, estimates that they will make $8 billion (with a B) per year when they get the go-ahead to institute its sports books, with Monmouth racetrack estimating they will make $1 billion of that return.
New Jersey has a state population of around 9 million, which much of that situated in the suburbs of New York City such as Hoboken and others, compared to South Carolina with 5 million. Despite the fact that it would take time to build infrastructure and regulations, it would irresponsible of our state to not want a piece of that pie.
Could you imagine what kind of help $2-4 billion would do for our state?
It took until 2000 for the Palmetto State to get a lottery, and video poker is only legal on boats, what is the difference between gambling off the Charleston coast or placing a legal wager on my phone in Columbia on an NFL game?
It’s this selective morality that holds states like South Carolina back and it’s not just a geographical construct. One of the states that’s primed to impact the greatest on Monday’s ruling is Mississippi, even in the Deep South, where they passed a law in 2017 saying they will allow sports gambling if the federal ban is lifted.
I’m not saying you have to build a casino on the Grand Strand or in the West End of Greenville, and I’m not saying I want gambling machines at Williams-Brice Stadium that resemble what you see at an English Premier League football ground.
I’m saying I want to open the conversation of how our state can be a leader for the future, and not be left behind in this new frontier with sports gambling.
Next time you run over a pothole on Gervais Street, or are stuck in construction on I-26, maybe contact your state representative to say we need to explore any way we can get our state more money.
South Carolina would greatly benefit from sports gambling and wagering.