South Carolina Casinos

South Carolina Casinos & Gambling
  • Lottery (2001)
  • About $400 million per year
  • About $1.4 billion per year
  • 18
  • South Carolina does not have a smoking ban
  • None

South Carolina casinos, as well as gambling, was once more popular than in Nevada. This occurred in the 1990s when video poker operators discovered a loophole in the South Carolina gambling laws.

Casinos opened up throughout the state. Gas stations, bars, and restaurants all hosted video poker games. These games were outlawed in 2000. A state lottery was created a year later. The only other forms of legal gambling are charity bingo and a casino cruise that docks near Myrtle Beach.

Paying Gambling Taxes in South Carolina

Did you know that your gambling income is taxable? OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos has gathered everything you need to know about paying taxes on your gambling winnings straight from a Certified Public Accountant. For more information please visit our exclusive Gambling Taxes article.

Types of South Carolina Online Gambling Allowed

No online gamblingThere are no forms of legalized online gambling in South Carolina. Daily fantasy sports sites accept players from South Carolina. These companies claim exemption under South Carolina’s skill game laws.

A spokesman for the South Carolina Attorney General’s office stated in November 2015 that there were no complaints by residents pertaining to daily fantasy sports sites. The South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson had no intention of investigating the industry, according to the spokesman.

Types of Live South Carolina Gambling

Popular games iconPopular Games
  • Casino Games: Some
  • Bingo: Yes
  • Lottery: Yes

There are only two forms of live gambling permitted in South Carolina. The state lottery sells tickets to lotto drawings. It also sells scratch-off instant game tickets. There is only one South Carolina casino currently operating within the state, the Big M Casino. This South Carolina casino is able to operate due to the fact that it acts as a cruise casino. People are able to book a short trip on the cruise while they gamble at the casino games tables. This goes back to the gambling laws surrounding boats.

Bingo is permitted is offered by charitable organizations. Entries must be $3, $5 or $18. The prize pool must be announced before the night of the games and cannot be based on the amount of the prize pool. The Catawba Tribe is permitted to spread high stakes bingo games due to this law through its exemption under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Attempts by the tribe to expand into casino operations have failed.

South Carolina gambling lawsSouth Carolina forbids most forms of gambling. Slots, video poker machines, table games and racing are all illegal. The possession of gambling devices is only permitted on cruise ships docked in water or in transport en route to licensed casinos.

The only forms of legalized gambling in South Carolina are a state lottery and bingo. State law permits the operation of a lottery by the government. Proceeds must go towards education. Only traditional tickets to instant games and lottos may be sold. South Carolina’s lottery may enter multi-state drawings and it does. This includes Mega Millions and Powerball. The lottery may not operate keno games for real money or expand into video lottery.

The Bingo Act of 1976 permits charities to offer bingo with a few rules. A game may only have one winner. The prize for each game offered during a session must be equal. Auto-daubers were permitted in 2004 but only to facilitate a traditional bingo game. Video bingo games are explicitly prohibited.

A nonprofit organization must be active for three years in the state to receive a bingo license. It must be a charitable, religious or fraternal organization. Each licensed bingo site must pay $1,000 per year. Manufacturers pay $5,000 per year to place devices related to bingo. Promoters must pay $2,000 per year to operate in South Carolina. The first $948,000 per year in annual revenue generated from bingo licensing must go towards senior citizen services and parks. Any overage may enter the general fund.

List of South Carolina Casinos

The only places to gamble in South Carolina are convenience stores that sell lottery tickets, charities that offer bingo and the Catawba reservation near Rock Hill, which offers high stakes bingo.

The only South Carolina casinos are the Big M Casino and SunCruz Aquacasino, which are cruise casinos, dock in the Little River Inlet just north of Myrtle Beach. Players may enjoy video poker, slots, craps, roulette and table games that use cards on these ships. The cruises may not operate casino games until they have entered international waters.

History of South Carolina Gambling

South Carolina casinos historyRacing was the first form South Carolina gambling. Horses and greyhounds raced early last century. The conservative movement during the days after World War II put an end to this type of gambling.

The first form of legalized South Carolina gambling in the modern days was bingo. This occurred in 1976. Only charities may offer bingo although the Catawba Tribe also operates the games through its exemption under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The rules pertaining to buy-ins and prize pools do not apply to reservation bingo games.

Voters approved a state lottery through a constitutional referendum in 2001. The first lottery ticket was sold in January 2002. The only permitted games are lotto drawings and instant scratch-off tickets. These are sold at convenience stores but not over the Internet.

Video Poker Machine Boom and Decline

The most interesting part of South Carolina gambling history started in 1986. A state gambling law was quietly edited and attached to a must-pass budget bill. The language removed the words “or property” from an anti-gambling statute. This was meant to legalize arcade redemption games, although there was some question as to whether the intent was always to find a back door for video poker machines.

Video poker machine SCGambling devices began appearing in convenience stores and bars. It was not long before casinos opened throughout the state. At one point there were 7,000 places to gamble, three times more than Nevada at the time. There were about 34,000 video poker machines in these establishments. It was not until 1989 that lawmakers realized what they had done three years prior. By that time, the video poker industry in South Carolina had exploded into a nine-figure industry in terms of annual revenues.

The first step towards controlling video poker was a law passed by the state legislature that limited daily winnings to $125. This law was skirted when video poker operators simply cashed out $125 per day until a larger jackpot was paid in full.

South Carolina video poker establishments were limited to five machines per location. Owners determined that a location was simply an address. The solution was to wall off multiple rooms and call it a separate business. Many casinos, as they were advertised, continued to stuff dozens of games into a building. Walls were constructed to separate them.

South Carolina outlawed the operation of video poker on Sundays. This was a law the operators actually obeyed.

Many of these South Carolina casinos were gaudy and considered eyesores in the community. The state lines with Georgia and North Carolina was littered with them.

South Carolina received no benefit from these machines in terms of taxes. There was no minimum age to play, although most video poker malls required patrons to be at least 19 years of age.

No Referendum for Voters

The video poker lobby even managed to defeat a popular governor, Republican David Beasley. Video poker operators backed Democrat Jim Hodges with millions in campaign funds. A historically Republican state saw a Democrat win its gubernatorial race thanks to the video poker’s campaign contributions.

The state had enough of this and in 1999, the state legislature decided to put an end to the industry. The South Carolina Legislature passed a bill, signed by Governor Hodges, which put the matter up for a statewide referendum. Voters would decide in a November 1999 referendum whether video poker should remain legal in South Carolina.

There was just one problem with this law. The South Carolina Constitution does not give its citizens a referendum right unless it is a constitutional amendment. The law stated that if South Carolinians did not affirm the legality of video poker, it would become illegal after June 30, 2000.

Some observers at the time wondered if this was intentional. The state legislature made it appear that it would allow the citizens to decide whether video poker should be legal in South Carolina. They never got the chance. The South Carolina Supreme Court deemed that its citizens could not vote on the measure because the state constitution did not permit such an action. Because of this ruling, video poker became illegal on July 1, 2000. The machines were moved to other states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and West Virginia, where the games still enjoyed a gray area status at the time.

South Carolina Casinos & Gambling FAQ

What forms of gambling are legal in South Carolina?

The only forms of legalized gambling in South Carolina are bingo and a state lottery.

Are daily fantasy sports legal in South Carolina?

It is widely believed daily fantasy sports are legal in South Carolina. State Attorney General Alan Wilson has yet to issue an official opinion on the topic.

Is racing legal in South Carolina?

Horse and greyhound racing are not legal in South Carolina.

Is off-track betting legal in South Carolina?


Is online gambling legal in South Carolina?

The only form of online gambling permitted in South Carolina at this time is daily fantasy sports.

Are online poker, casino games or sports betting legal in South Carolina?

All of these games are illegal in South Carolina. The sites that operate the games are unlicensed in the state.

Does the South Carolina Lottery sell tickets over the Internet?

Lottery tickets are not sold online in South Carolina.

Is video poker legal in South Carolina?

Video poker was outlawed in 2000.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller Online Casino and Game Expert

I've been writing for OUSC about the casino industry for more than 15 years. I love playing games, including poker, Scrabble, and trivia games. I enjoy researching and writing new online casino reviews and sharing game strategies.

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