South Carolina Poker and Gambling Laws

Last updated: Jan 7, 2020Gambling in South Carolina remains limited to riverboats but recently legislators have begun talking in earnest about the possibility of actual land-based casinos. Politicians are particularly interested in allowing casinos in resort destinations such as the popular Great Strand area. It’s still very far off but the potentially lucrative gambling revenue for the state might tide them over. Regulated online poker, unfortunately, remains very far away for SC poker players.

Online Poker in South Carolina – Estimated Date of Legalization: 2023-2026

South Carolina doesn’t offer too many legal forms of gambling within their state, and they don’t allow much leeway when it comes to their laws. Their laws are similar to Pennsylvania’s in regards to not having a specific definition for “gambling”, which is rare and only causes more controversy when issues arise.

What is in their statutes in Sections 16-19-40 is some clarity to unlawful games and betting which states:

“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, or any gaming table known or distinguished by any other letters or by any figures, (c) any roley-poley table, (d) rouge et noir, (e) any faro bank (f) any other table or bank of the same or the like kind under any denomination whatsoever or (g) any machine or device licensed pursuant to Section 12-21-2720 and used for gambling purposes.”

As you can see is doesn’t provide a whole lot of clarity to the situation. Usually, when gambling issues are brought up in legal matters the above is the section of the law most often looked at.

Current Stance on Internet Poker

South Carolina doesn’t appear to be a leading state candidate when it comes to fully legalizing and regulating poker online. And, it’s tough for them to do so since they don’t allow commercial or Indian casinos.

The state may not currently have regulated interstate poker, but that doesn’t mean their laws don’t allow it. It definitely is a gray area, but no records have been found of people being arrested, fined, and/or served jail time for playing poker over the internet.

They also don’t seem to like home poker games but we found a good article with legal points which would help protect poker players in case they find themselves in a bad situation.

The article mentions three solid points:

  • If a statute has a substantial part of it that is unconstitutional, the whole statute is invalid.
  • You have standing with the court to challenge the statute even if your rights were not violated, as long as there is a substantial chance that someone else’s might be.

The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case of Broadrick v. Oklahoma departs from traditional rules of standing by allowing litigants to challenge a statute, “not because their own rights of free expression are violated … but because of the possibility that third parties engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment might be chilled from such activity.”

  • An unconstitutional statute does not have to actually be used to prosecute anyone for it to be invalidated.

In the case of Epperson v. Arkansas, in which a teacher, Susan Epperson, challenged a state statute making it unlawful to teach any theory of evolution or adopt or use a textbook that teaches evolution, the Supreme Court specifically noted, “There is no record of any prosecutions under the statute. It is possible that the statute is presently more of a curiosity than a vital fact of life.” Then it said, “Nevertheless, it is our duty to decide the issues presented.” We must conclude that even if no one in South Carolina has ever been arrested for violating the unconstitutional part of these statutes (which in a statute this old would be impossible to prove), it is still valid to take issue with the statute as a whole.

What are the Legal Forms of Gaming within the State?

Get ready for the long list of legal forms of gambling allowed in South Carolina; state lottery and charitable gaming. Sorry if you were hoping for a longer list, but the state lottery and charitable gaming are all they offer. No pari-mutuel betting, racetracks, commercial and Indian casinos are allowed.

On November 4, 2014, South Carolina voters passed an Amendment to start allowing raffles as a form of charitable gaming.

The state lottery is called the South Carolina Education Lottery. Looks like they wanted a name that would be more widely accepted amongst their residents, and also one that would help lure in people to buying lottery tickets knowing some of the money goes towards education; very clever.

Fun games aside, their lottery has produced great results for education programs. South Carolina’s lottery started on January 7, 2002 and has devoted more than $4.1 billion to education, kindergarten through higher education and scholarships, since its inception. For every $1 spent on a lottery ticket, 26.4% goes towards the Education Lottery Account.

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