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  • Caroline M. Knight

Anderson Observer: Legislation Would Revitalize S.C. Equine Industry


Members of the South Carolina General Assembly have an opportunity to pass legislation this year that will revitalize our state's longstanding equine industry, which has been in decline over the past 50 years. The S.C. Equine Advancement Act would establish a grant program to assist the growth and development of the equine industry in South Carolina by allowing a limited form of pari-mutuel wagering on horse races.


The South Carolina House of Representatives passed the bill on April 6, 2023, and the Senate is expected to debate it this year. South Carolina’s equine industry has a $1.9 billion economic impact and provides 30,000 jobs across the state, primarily in rural areas. With passage of this transformational piece of legislation, those figures are expected to increase.


In addition, other equine-based nonprofits in South Carolina, like 4H programs at the high school and collegiate levels, prison-to-work programs, and equine-based therapy programs, would also benefit from the passage of this legislation. The S.C. Equine Advancement Act would establish a competitive grant program that equine-based nonprofits could participate in. The grant program, managed by the South Carolina Equine Commission, would provide new funding opportunities for equine-based nonprofits to continue their important work.


More specifically, the S.C. Equine Advancement Act provides a unique opportunity to assist nonprofits like the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association with saving and preserving the culturally and historically important Marsh Tacky breed of horse by providing new funding streams to assist with expanding breeding programs and the associated costs, as well as sponsorships to further promote this critically important breed.


Along with assisting our state’s equine-based nonprofits, the S.C. Equine Advancement Act also presents a unique opportunity to conserve one of South Carolina’s most precious natural resources – agricultural land. The legislation would help grow the existing horse trail network, provide resources that would allow agricultural landowners operating equine-based programs to preserve their land through conservation easements, and generate additional funding for horse owners to utilize more acreage so our horses have more space to graze, work, play, and live.


To generate the funding that would assist our state’s equine industry, the bill would legalize Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) on equine events being held in South Carolina and across the U.S. ADW providers require that funds be pre-deposited to place a wager and has been an important source of revenue growth that has generated additional dollars to revitalize the equine industry and agribusinesses across the nation. The S.C. Equine Advancement Act also establishes regulations to better protect consumers by regulating the gaming industry that already operates on a large but unofficial scale in South Carolina, creating more responsible and transparent practices.


The Carolina Marsh Tacky Association, created in 2007, is a not-for-profit 501 (c)3 organization charged with the protection, promotion, and preservation of the Marsh Tacky. The organizers helped to establish a breed registry to gain recognition and support this endangered breed. There are currently only 500 Marsh Tackies left in the world today.


The future of South Carolina’s state heritage horse – the Marsh Tacky – is at stake. Organizations like ours are willing to do the work to preserve this historic and important horse breed but need new funding mechanisms to allow us to continue our efforts.


We ask out State Senators to support this critically important piece of legislation and ask that Governor McMaster sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.


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