Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, sports betting is once again becoming legal in some parts of the United States. In fact, some state governments have already lifted restrictions on sports gambling during the pandemic, proving that the appetite for sports betting is still very much alive.
One of the first states to reinstate sports betting was South Carolina. On May 20th, 2020, Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order lifting all restrictions on “traditional and legal gambling.” Though the details of the executive order are still being finalized, it appears that the state will soon become one of the first in America to allow and regulate sports betting.
Specifically, the order states that “[s]ports gambling shall include… pari-mutuel wagering on horse races…” and that “[c]asino-style gambling, including blackjack, roulette, poker, craps, and baccarat…shall be permitted.” It is not yet clear whether or not the governor will allow for the popularization of legal sports betting, or if he will allow only for traditional pari-mutuel wagering on horse races.
The state legislature will have the final say in whether or not to legalize sports betting. But already, several lawmakers have voiced their support for the move. Senator Brandon Westmoreland stated, “It is the right of the people to know the odds of something happening. It is not a form of gambling to knowingly put money on a game that you know is not going to happen.”
Poker is, in fact, one of the most popular games in which people around the world engage. The odds of winning are usually very much in your favor. But does that mean that all poker games, both live and online, are forms of gambling and should be considered illegal? Most people would argue no. Especially not when performed between two parties who have agreed to the stakes beforehand.
The Need for Regulation
The legalization of sports betting in South Carolina is still several weeks away. But even now that the state’s betting restrictions have been lifted, it’s important to remember that not all forms of sports gambling are created equal. Some forms are more risky than others, and online gambling in particular is still considered highly suspect by many in the legal community.
It’s not yet known how the South Carolina government will regulate sports betting, or if the state will allow for multiple forms of legal gambling (including sports betting). But at least for now, the legal status of sports betting in the state seems certain. That is, as long as lawmakers don’t take action to put a stop to it once again.
Why Are States Legalizing Sports Gambling?
The legal status of sports betting in South Carolina is notable because it comes at a time when state governments are looking for ways to generate more revenue during the pandemic. More and more states are now lifting restrictions on sports gambling as a way to attract prospective players and industry participants, as well as to provide some relief for taxpayers.
The revenue that states can generate from legalized sports gambling will depend on a number of variables. But one of the most important factors is simply how much interest there is in sports gambling in the state in question. Some states, like Nevada, have an extremely high interest in sports gambling, while others, like New York, have largely disinterested residents. For those states that have an interested audience, the ability to implement and regulate sports gambling is likely to provide a welcome boost to their coffers.
The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic On Gambling
The lifting of restrictions on sports gambling is, at least for the time being, providing a welcome boost to the economy. But while the impact of the pandemic on traditional forms of gambling (such as casinos, horse racing, and lotteries) is becoming more and more apparent, the impact on sports gambling is still unclear.
It is still very much in the early stages of the pandemic, with only a handful of states having lifted restrictions on sports gambling. And even now that sports betting is becoming legal across the United States, it remains to be seen whether or not the COVID-19 pandemic will end up being good or bad for gambling.
It’s important to keep in mind that while some states (such as New York and Nevada) have legalized and regulated sports gambling, other states (such as California and Ohio) have outlawed it. The fact that the federal government still considers sports gambling illegal despite the legal changes in some states raises the question of whether or not the pandemic can ever truly be good for gambling. Though the immediate impact of the pandemic on sports gambling looks positive, it’s still very much an open question whether or not the long-term outlook for gambling will improve or worsen due to the pandemic.
It’s also important to keep in mind that some states that have legalized sports gambling have not done so willingly. In fact, many states, including Nevada, have legalized sports gambling only after significant pressure from the federal government. The same can be said for Delaware, which legalized sports gambling in order to appease the NCAA and its member schools. The truth is that without the federal government’s involvement, most states probably wouldn’t have approved sports betting.
For those who still enjoy a good game of poker, the legalization of sports gambling in South Carolina is cause for celebration. It appears that the state’s lawmakers have finally understood the allure of competitive gambling, even if it is now allowed under strictly regulated circumstances. The fact that some states (such as New York and Nevada) have legalized sports gambling and also implemented or considered regulatory schemes shows that even now, during the pandemic, the need for competitive gambling is still very much alive.
Though many states have laws preventing gambling from being used as a form of recreation (especially during times of financial hardship), the appetite for sports gambling is still very much alive, suggesting that perhaps the prohibition on gambling is more psychological than anything else. If anything, the recent spate of legal challenges to sports gambling bans show that even the most draconian anti-gambling legislation can’t keep the world of sports from playing out.