With North Carolina Sports Betting Launching Next Year, Will South Carolina Soon Follow?

Mention the Carolinas and it’s easy for someone unfamiliar with the two states that fall under that moniker to assume they are essentially the same. Not true – especially when it comes to gambling. North Carolina is a state of over 10 million people with pro franchises and, soon, available legal online sports betting. South Carolina has half the population and no legal gambling outside its state lottery and charity raffles.

There are other differences worth mentioning, too. Political differences, like the fact that purplish North Carolina occasionally swings elections. South Carolina is a deep shade of red. 

Not that conservatism isn’t compatible with legalized gambling. Of the more than 33 states with legal sports betting, for example, almost half are red states. Yet recent efforts to pass sports betting laws in Columbia have failed.

Gaming Today talked with University of South Carolina Sport and Entertainment Management Professor Mark S. Nagel, Ed.D. on Wednesday to find out what it will take to get the Palmetto State added to the roster of legal states now that the other Carolina is preparing to launch up to 12 online sportsbook apps and up to eight commercial retail sportsbooks in 2024. 

According to Nagel, a little FOMO – and betting dollars going across the border into North Carolina – could push South Carolina lawmakers to move forward with legislation in future sessions. 

North Carolina Sports Betting ‘A Really Big Change’ 

Nagel is not new to the Carolinas. He has been a faculty member of USC’s Department of Sport and Entertainment Management since 2006 and has a long career in the field. Beyond academia, the California native is a former assistant coach of the University of San Francisco women’s basketball team which Nagel helped lead to three NCAA tourney appearances.

He said he isn’t surprised that the Carolinas have waited to consider legal sports betting. Although the US Supreme Court changed the landscape five years ago when it turned sports betting legalization over to the states, Nagel said North and South Carolina are more conservative than many states when it comes to gambling. 

Neither state has legal casinos, outside of tribal casinos with retail sports betting in western North Carolina. There is no legal horse race betting either, although that will soon change for North Carolina – horse race wagering was legalized along with up to 12 online sportsbook apps and a limited number of retail books under 2023 House Bill 347, North Carolina’s sports betting law. 

“I think the Carolinas tend to be a little bit more conservative and so it just took North Carolina longer to move toward a law that would make this legal,” Nagel told Gaming Today.

“They’ve been one of the states that have been a little more reticent to allow most forms of gambling to exist. So this is actually a really big change.” 

A Sports Betting Domino Effect

It’s hard to say exactly why the change happened. Politics is complicated, after all. But Nagel said he thinks the legalization of sports betting in neighboring and nearby states could play a role.

Virginia and Tennessee both border North Carolina and have online sports betting. Nearby Kentucky will soon join them when it launches mobile sports betting on Sept. 28. The Bluegrass State launched retail sports betting on Sept. 7.

“It’s interesting – when a state legalizes gambling, the adjoining states tend to do it as well fairly quickly afterward,” said Nagel. “Other states are starting to see that it has worked elsewhere. That makes it even more acceptable to mimic, or do what others have done.” 

So will that trend of follow-me translate to South Carolina legal sports betting now that North Carolina is added to the list of legal states? Nagel thinks so. 

Tax Revenue and Changing Views

South Carolina had a chance to pass sports betting this year but didn’t. It came closer to legalizing online horse race betting; that proposal (House Bill 3514) passed the House 55-46 in April but hasn’t made it out of the Senate (although it has another shot next year). 

Right now, Nagel said he thinks South Carolina is taking note of other states – including North Carolina – and will eventually revisit its place in the gambling landscape. 

A big push toward expanded gambling for many states is new tax revenue. According to the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina is expected to net $74.9 million in tax and fees in its first year of legal sports betting. That is likely to increase to $100.6 million in year five, per the Observer. 

At least some of that revenue is expected to come from South Carolina residents. Nagel said he thinks South Carolinians will make up somewhere between 10% to 20% of those betting in North Carolina, particularly in the Charlotte area near the border of the two states.

“I think what is probably going to happen in South Carolina is they’re going to see very quickly how many South Carolina residents go to North Carolina to gamble,” Nagel told Gaming Today. “And that’s going to probably change a lot of their perception, and it may very quickly become a legislative issue here.” 

“I think that may change how the South Carolina legislature and statehouse views this topic.”

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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