Sports gambling in South Carolina? Officials say it's a risky bet

(CNN file)

If sports gambling is legalized in South Carolina, it won't happen in 2018.

The Supreme Court decision that allowed states besides Nevada to legalize placing bets on sports came just after the South Carolina State Legislature finished their annual session, meaning no new bills will be considered until January.

RELATED: Supreme Court makes sports betting a possibility nationwide

But there's another problem.

"Sports betting or horse races, or what they call parimutuel betting. All of that is illegal," 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said.

The South Carolina Constitution forbids gambling, including sports gambling. While Richardson said few people are prosecuted under that section of laws, an amendment would need to be made before Palmetto State residents could put their money behind Clemson or USC.

Supporters say the longer South Carolina waits, the more it stands to lose.

"We have access to a tourist crowd that comes into Horry County and Myrtle Beach that may want to go into our sports bars or into all track betting parlors and place wagers that they're already placing now, but South Carolina gets no revenue from it," J. Todd Rutherford, a Democratic state representative from Columbia and supporter of legalizing gambling, said.

Other legislators are less enthusiastic.

State Senator Luke Rankin (R-33) said he's open to further discussion and doesn't support or oppose sports gambling, but believes South Carolina's economy doesn't need it.

"Does the state need to be in the business of promoting and advancing that," he asked. "Again, you've got not only an economic cost, but a moral cost to weigh as well. So I'll be open to further discussion."

We also reached out to State Senator Greg Hembree, who worried that sports gambling would take away money from the state's education lottery.

Neither Rankin or Rutherford shared those concerns.

"I think that's a difficult statement or climb to make," Rankin said.

Rutherford said in free markets, private companies should be able to compete with the government.

"South Carolina is going to get on the gravy train, or we're going to stick our heads in the sand," he said.

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