LITTLE RIVER, SC (WBTW) – The Myrtle Beach area could be one of the first places in the state to have a physical location for gambling, according to researchers studying the benefits and problems around expanding gaming options in South Carolina.
Unless you buy an education lottery ticket, Little River is the only place you can legally gamble in South Carolina. You have to go at least three miles offshore on one of two boats from The Big “M” Casino.
The Palmetto Forum for Gaming Studies is looking at what could happen if South Carolina legalized more forms of gambling on land like casinos, horse racing or sports betting.
“It would be an economic stimulant,” said Dr. Jim Rex, co-chair of the Palmetto Forum for Gaming Studies. “Whether or not there’s a strong enough sentiment across all the demographics down here that say, “Yes, this is a good thing,” has yet to be seen.”
The Palmetto Forum says it’s not advocating for or against expanded gambling options. Instead, it’s studying their effects.
The group met privately with about 35 government and business leaders at the CB Berry Community Center, a few miles from the state’s only casino, in the region attracting millions of tourists each year.
“I think Myrtle Beach is talked about more than any other community when you talk about casino gaming, horse racing or something like that,” said Scott Malyerck, director of the Palmetto Forum.
The researchers say while most leaders at Monday’s meeting supported gambling legalization, they want potential revenue generated here to stay here.
“Most people felt that some of that revenue should be earmarked for the local community and shouldn’t all go to the state,” Dr. Rex said. “It probably harkens back to your experiences with hospitality taxes down here.”
The Palmetto Forum is also looking at what the state’s gambling winnings could improve.
“I feel like it could bring a lot more money into our education, road work, everything in South Carolina to make us a better state,” said Little River resident La’Vonte Stanley.
The Palmetto Forum will spend about a year researching before deciding whether or not to propose gambling legislation in Columbia. That would likely require amending the state constitution, which could include voters deciding on a referendum.
A sports betting study after last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision says South Carolina could bring in roughly $90-200 million from those wagers alone.