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South Carolina House advances mobile sports betting bill

On Thursday, South Carolina’s House Ways and Means Revenue Policy Subcommittee voted in favor of an amended bill to legalize digital sports betting in the state.

House Bill 3749, which has Rep. Christopher Murphy as its sponsor, will now head to the full Ways and Means Committee for approval. If passed, the bill will only legalize mobile wagering, allowing up to eight digital platforms to offer sports betting. This includes placing bets on college and professional sports.

HB 3749 will tie a number of sports betting licenses to South Carolina’s PGA Tour stops in addition to NASCAR’s Darlington Raceway, both of which supported the bill. They were the only witnesses that spoke at the meeting and pointed out that legalizing betting would increase fan interest and engagement in sports.

Per the measure, the legal age of wagering is 18, which aligns with the state’s legal age for buying lottery tickets. A new gambling commission will be created to regulate the activity.

Murphy revealed that South Carolina residents spend as much as $2.5 billion annually on illegal betting. If legalized, the state could receive $23 million in tax revenue. The adjusted gross revenue tax rate for sports betting entities sits at 10%, and 5% of the state tax will be set aside for RG programs. 80% will be sent to the state’s general fund, while cities and towns will receive 15% of sports betting’s tax revenue.

Gaming operators will be required to pay a $50,000 application fee which will be refunded if their application fails. Applicants must hold operations in at least five other states to be licensed in South Carolina. Sports betting operators that meet this requirement and are approved must pay the state an additional $450,000.

According to Murphy, HB 3749 would aid in curbing the prevalent issue of illegal wagering in the state. He pointed out that over 80% of black market betting had been eradicated in states that legalized the activity.

Some of the amendments to the bill include a “master operator” license addition. This allows a sports betting entity based in the state to be issued a license and link with around four wagering operators. According to the subcommittee, it will provide some advantages to South Carolina businesses and retain economic benefits.

The sports betting company awarded the master operator will be able to start six months before its competition. This is similar to the Illinois measure that gave local licenses a year and six months advantage over independent online platforms.

HB 3749 had no opponents, allowing it to proceed with little discussion.

The bill takes after a similar bill in Tennessee which legalized only digital wagering. The state was the first to do so, with Wyoming approving mobile-only sports betting last year and Vermont gearing up to do so.

A bill to legalize digital betting in North Carolina was recently passed in the House and is en route to the Senate. While the state already has legal watering, only tribal casinos are authorized to offer it.

The state’s legislature will adjourn on May 11, and the legislation’s crossover date is set for April 10. This gives the South Carolina House less than two weeks to advance HB 3749 to the Senate.

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