South Carolina Gambling Laws

South Carolina Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in South Carolina?

South Carolina is one of the most conservative states in the Union. Conservative government in the modern USA can mean a conservative approach to government, with few laws so the power of the state can never grow too much. Conservative governance can also mean an attempt to use state power to modify the behavior of citizens through morality laws, increasing the power of the state over people's lives, buying into the liberal idea that government power can be used for social engineering.

In the case of the South Carolina gambling laws, the latter, "social conservation" interpretation is what hold sways. People don't want their neighbors to fall prey to the evils wrought by games of chance, so anti-gambling laws are put in force by the state. The State of South Carolina keeps matters simple, though, investing all power over gambling in the offices of the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

Playing Poker in South Carolina

South Carolina's gambling laws aren't very favorable to the gambler. And that trend continues when we consider the game of poker as viewed by South Carolina state law.

The primary strike against poker: State law clearly identifies the game as a form of gambling. If you look to South Carolina's definition of gambling in Section 16-19-40 (one of the longest of any U.S. state), you'll see that "any game" played using "cards" counts as gambling.

With poker treated as synonymous with gambling, our next task is to identify any legal gambling options under South Carolina that might encompass poker. That's a pretty simple task, insomuch that there are basically no clearly legal ways to play real-money poker in the state.

Commercial and tribal casinos don't operate any live poker rooms in South Carolina. There are charitable gambling exceptions written into the state law, but poker isn't among the activities permitted by said exceptions.

That leaves the lowly home game. Are social games of poker legal in South Carolina? Mix of news on this question, as the law itself doesn't offer a clear exception for social gambling. But state officials have stated publicly that prosecuting home poker games (where players have a genuine social connection) isn't of interest to them, so players wondering about the status of their Friday night poker game are left with a legal situation that is, at best, cloudy.

So does South Carolina outlaw all gambling?

The answer to that question is "not entirely". Charitable gaming for nonprofit organizations is legal, if you're licensed to run such games. Also, the definition of charitable gaming even allows certain types of gambling machines to be used. One news note mentions that gambling terminals are legal, if they don't give out more than $125 in prizes per day. These are only legal in limited situations, when associated with charitable gaming enterprises.

This wasn't always so. From 1975 until 2000, video poker machines were legal inside South Carolina. Since tougher laws went into effect in 2000, it's illegal to even own most video poker machines in South Carolina.

Learn About Other State Laws

South Carolina Casino Cruises

One other exception is made, though this skirts by on the technicality that these activities don't actually take place in the jurisdiction of South Carolina. I'm of course talking about the casino cruise, a feature of many southern states along the eastern seaboard who wouldn't allow a casino to be built in their state. Like Georgia next door, South Carolina has some nice seaside resort cities which give plenty of access to the Atlantic Ocean. So long as the casino cruise goes beyond the 3 mile limit, it's not considered illegal to host gambling.

The Sun Cruz Casino is an example of one of these casino cruises. The Suncruz ship sets out from Myrtle Beach...