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South Carolina Charitable Gaming

Currently, the only form of charitable gaming allowed in South Carolina is bingo. The South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) licenses and regulates nonprofit bingo games, organizations and individuals, such as manufacturers, distributors and promoters.

The Bingo Act of 1976 established the state's rules and regulations for charitable bingo. A bingo game was defined as a single game of chance. The law also prohibited operating bingo games that offered more than one prize per game, awarded prizes of unequal value, and did not offer a specified merchandise or dollar prize or altered the stated prize after the fact in any way.

The Bingo Act of 1989 amended the bingo laws to include a new promoter's license. In 2004, the state began permitting the use of electronic dabbers. Electronic dabbers were defined primarily as a portable hand-held device used in conjunction with a bingo ticket that "entitled the player to mark his cards electronically, rather than using paper cards and marking them manually."

A nonprofit organization needs to obtain a license before conducting bingo for charitable purposes. To be licensed, a nonprofit organization has to be based in the state for at least three years before the license application and active for at least two of those years. Once licensed, a nonprofit is not required to renew its license unless the operation of the game or the location changes. Each nonprofit organization is permitted only one bingo license each.

A promoter is an individual or organization contracted by a licensed nonprofit organization to manage, operate or conduct a bingo game, and must be licensed by the SCDOR to do so. A promoter license fee is $1,000, to be paid each year. Each promoter is permitted no more than five licenses.

A manufacturer or distributor of bingo cards must be licensed to do business in the state. The license fee for a manufacturer is $5,000. The license fee for a distributor is $2,000. Both fees must be paid annually to the SCDOR. A manufacturer or distributor may not be licensed in any other capacity and cannot operate or conduct bingo games.

Promoter and nonprofit organization licensees are required to charge bingo players an entrance fee to play bingo of $3, $5 or $18 depending on the class of license held.

Commercial bingo is not permitted in South Carolina, but parts of the charitable bingo sector in South Carolina have a commercial feel due the presence of the Littlefield Corporation. Littlefield operates more than 30 charitable bingo halls in four states and is a licensed promoter in South Carolina. Charitable organizations in South Carolina can ask Littlefield to host and operate charity bingo events.

In July 2008, Littlefield Corporation announced it had won six bingo hall licenses. The company sought the licenses because it gave them the option to add to the 10 bingo halls it already operated in South Carolina. In 2011, Littlefield purchased one bingo hall while letting another close.

The SCDOR levies a bingo tax on bingo licensees based on the number bingo cards sold. Tax rates vary based on the type of bingo licensee. This same tax rate and schedule are also levied by the SCDOR on licensed bingo manufacturers, distributors and promoters for all bingo cards sold. The SCDOR must, by law, distribute the first $948,000 from all bingo revenues received to funds benefiting aging, parks and recreation, and the state's general fund.
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