Horse Racing Officials in South Carolina Push for Pari-Mutuel Wagering Legislation
Horse racing enthusiasts and industry stakeholders in South Carolina are urging state lawmakers to pass legislation allowing pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. The renewed push comes as horsemen gear up for the 2023 Aiken Fall Steeplechase races scheduled for November 18.
South Carolina currently has strict gambling laws, with only lottery gaming and charity raffles permitted. There are no commercial or tribal casinos, sports betting, pari-mutuel wagering, or iGaming allowed in the state. The last amendment to gaming laws in South Carolina dates back to 2000 when voters approved the South Carolina Education Lottery.
Frank Mullins, president of the Aiken Steeplechase Association, highlighted the existence of underground wagering in the state. He urged for regulation and legalization of pari-mutuel betting to ensure that the industry benefits from the revenue and is properly overseen.
Pari-mutuel wagering differs from fixed-odds sports betting in that the final payout is determined after the betting pool is closed. The system allows bettors to wager against each other, with facilitators taking a small percentage of the pool and distributing the remainder to winning bets.
Earlier this year, state Rep. Russell Ott introduced House Bill 3514, which seeks to legalize online pari-mutuel betting for individuals aged 21 and older physically located within South Carolina. The bill also aims to permit in-person wagering at licensed horse racetracks and events such as the Aiken Steeplechase.
While the bill gained support in the House, it hit a roadblock in the Senate, where conservative lawmakers refused to take up the matter of expanded gaming. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a staunch opponent of gambling expansion, has pledged to veto any such bill during his tenure, which runs until January 2027.
Mullins emphasized the potential revenue that pari-mutuel wagering could bring to the horse racing industry and highlighted the proposed 10% tax on wagering proceeds to fund the Equine Industry Development Fund. Despite the challenges, he encouraged supporters of legalized betting to continue advocating for their cause, urging them to reach out to legislators and the governor.
As the 2024 legislative session approaches, proponents of pari-mutuel wagering in South Carolina are hopeful that their calls for legalized betting on horse races will gain traction and lead to much-needed reforms in the state’s gambling laws.