Featured in this article:
  • Bipartisan lawmakers introduced bill to allow betting on horse races in South Carolina.
  • Bill would allow mobile betting on races nationwide.
  • State representative says bill is intended to support state's equine industry.

3 Minute Read

South Carolina could legalize mobile horse racing betting under new bill.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow betting on South Carolina horse racing. Additionally, if passed, South Carolinians could wager on horse races around the country through a mobile app.

The Palmetto state has one of the most restrictive gambling landscapes in the country. The only regulated form of gambling is the state lottery. Unlike a separate push for sports betting and horse racing, this legislative proposal is limited to pari-mutuel betting on the ponies.

South Carolina Horse Racing Industry Would Receive Boost

State Representative Russell Ott (D-Calhoun) and state Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) are behind the push to allow pari-mutuel South Carolina horse racing. The duo believes the state is a sleeping giant for the horse breeding and training industry. But, to tap into that potential, the state must allow pari-mutuel betting first.

churchill downs horse racing

While South Carolina likely won’t get its own Churchill Downs, the bill would expand racing in the state.

“South Carolina has such a rich and diverse history when it comes to horses,” Representative Ott said. “People from all across the country would send their horses here to be trained.” According to a legislative study, 29,000 people in the Palmetto state depend on the horse-racing industry for their livelihoods. And he believes this new bill would support them and allow industry expansion in South Carolina.

In addition to the knock-on effects of regulating horse racing closer to home, 10% of all gross profits from pari-mutuel betting would be returned directly to the state’s horse-rearing industry. The money would cover trail and training improvements and fund new training programs in conjunction with state colleges and universities.

Bill Would Allow Mobile Betting on the Ponies

If Representative Ott and Senator Shealy convince their colleagues to pass their South Carolina horse racing bill, residents could download a mobile app for betting on races nationwide. The state would offer a limited number of licenses to national sportsbook operators to provide the service.

However, the new bill is limited to horse racing. There is no provision for wider-sports betting, like is allowed in neighboring Tennessee. Like South Carolina, Tennessee had little gambling infrastructure before lawmakers allowed regulated mobile betting. In fact, there are still no casinos in either Tennessee or South Carolina.

But the South Carolina measure would not advance gambling nearly as far as Tennessee. Likewise, another formally anti-gambling southern state is further distancing itself from South Carolina. In Virginia, residents can already wager on sports from their phone or computer. Virginia is going further, however, by also building four full-service resort style casinos.

Compared to Virginia, the South Carolina horse racing bill is a baby step towards expanded gambling. Still, considering the current state of gaming in South Carolina, a baby step may be required before residents have access to a full slate of gambling options.

Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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