Is Gambling in South Carolina Legal?
South Carolina gambling laws are restrictive, to say the least. The only state to have even less freedom when it comes to gambling is Utah which is the most conservative state in the country.
Residents have little to no gambling options with no casinos, be it tribal or commercial, no poker, and no sports betting. Even the widely accepted charity games are heavily-restricted in this state.
The only regulated form of gambling available within state lines is the state-run lottery, and some very limited bingo games played under the charity game carve-out.
South Carolina Gambling Laws
The gambling laws in Palmetto State are so strict, that any games involving the use of dice and cards are considered illegal no matter where they are played.
There’s no ifs or buts about that matter. They are outright outlawed, regardless if real money is used for wagering or not so one small mishap could easily put you on the wrong side of the law.
In order to attain such widely restrictive gambling laws, the lawmakers made use of very broadly worded statutes that could be interpreted in one way or another to apply to any and all forms of gambling, besides from the specifically listed exceptions.
A key difference in this state compared to the rest is that there is no specific definition of gambling, betting or wagering found in South Carolina Code of laws. Again, this is probably so that the state officials can easily control the laws around gambling as required.
Instead, the state defines what it means to engage in unlawful games and betting, found in section 16-16-40:
“ If any person shall play at any tavern, inn, store for the retailing of spirituous liquors or in any house used as a place of gaming, barn, kitchen, stable or other outhouse, street, highway, open wood, race field or open place at (a) any game with cards or dice, (b) any gaming table,……(g) any machine or device licensed pursuant to Section 12-21-2720 and used for gambling purposes, except the games of billiards, shall be imprisoned for a period of not over thirty days or fined not over one hundred dollars, and every person so keeping such tavern, inn, retail store, public place, or house used as a place for gaming or such other house shall, upon being convicted thereof, upon indictment, be imprisoned for a period not exceeding twelve months and forfeit a sum not exceeding two thousand dollars, for each and every offense.. ”
It is also illegal to keep any unlawful gaming tables, as described in section 16-19-50:
“ Any person who shall set up, keep, or use any (a) gaming table,…(e) any other gaming table or bank of the like kind or of any other kind for the purpose of gaming, or (f) any machine or device licensed pursuant to Section 12-21-2720 and used for gambling purposes except the games of billiards,…upon being convicted thereof, upon indictment, shall forfeit a sum not exceeding five hundred dollars and not less than two hundred dollars. ”
The law makes no distinction between gambling practiced publicly or privately. That is to say, unlikely many other states, social gambling is strictly illegal in South Carolina. A private property owner who allows anyone to gamble for any amount of money within their property is guilty of a misdemeanor. Repeat offenders are still charged with a misdemeanor, but is accompanied with a mandatory jail sentence.
There are also strict restrictions in play for charitable gaming, which is legal, but only if it meets certain criteria. You can find a lengthy description of this in section 16-19-10 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina. In short, only bingo is strictly allowed, and must be licensed.
South Carolina Gambling Options
In case you haven’t already realised, there is very few gambling options within this state. Strictly speaking, the only forms of legal gambling is the state’s lottery and charity bingo games.
Although technically not considered to be a gambling option within state lines, residents can join “Casino Cruises” which sail about 3 miles out into international waters before allowing its passengers to participate in gambling games. But even these are restricted in terms of the games they are allowed to offer as well as the range of wagers they can accept.
Citizens can also enjoy watching horse racing, but any form of betting on this is strictly illegal.
Online Gambling in South Carolina
With such limited gambling options, perhaps residents can be happy knowing the fact that there are no specific laws within South Carolina’s Code of Laws that pertains to the legality of online gambling. In other words, even though online gambling is not explicitly listed as being legal, at the same time, it’s also not listed as being illegal, but simply implied as such.
Given it’s somewhat a grey area, it’s not surprising to know that residents commonly satisfy their gambling thirst online at legal offshore sites.
As far as we know, no residents of South Carolina has ever been arrested and charged for the practice of online gambling.
Online Poker in South Carolina
Seeing as no forms of poker is legal within state lines, this includes social poker, the only way for residents to play poker is online. The fact that there is no law that explicitly outlaws the practice of online gambling, it’s fairly common for citizens to play online poker at legal and fully regulated offshore poker sites.
The Future of Online Poker in South Carolina
Never say never, unless it’s in regards to gambling in South Carolina. But even then, never say never. The truth is, given the current status of how the state perceives gambling, there are many other areas to be addressed before regulating online poker is even in the conversation topic. Perhaps legalising more than 2 forms of gambling would be a start.