North Carolina Continues to Work on Legal Sports Betting

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Senate legislation to regulate North Carolina sports gambling was reintroduced in the House by a committee that voted to approve the measure. Support for the measure is not strictly party-line. The bill aims to regulate and tax online betting, which supporters claim is already happening within North Carolina’s borders.

North Carolina Lawmakers Not Giving Up on Sports Betting

Representative Jon Hardister of Guilford County asserted, “This is something that we can’t ignore. It’s already here. We need to establish the framework, we need to derive the revenue.” Hardister helped shepherd the Senate measure through the House Commerce Committee in a 12-4 vote.

The Senate approved the measure in August with bipartisan support. However, it must be passed through three more House committees before it can reach the House floor.

Representative Jason Saine of Lincoln County warned that the bill has “a long way to go,” and added that there was no plan to rush the measure through the legislative session. The bill could still be considered for consideration next year if it is blocked.

The legislation directs the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission to issue between 10-12 interactive sports betting operator licenses and supplier licenses. There could be wagering on college, professional and some amateur sports. Licensees could create online betting apps and an in-person betting location near or within a professional sporting arena.

The state would receive 8% of the operator’s adjusted gross revenue. The state would receive half of the tax proceeds to fund a special fund that attracts sporting events and attractions. An analysis of a prior version of the bill showed that the total annual revenue could exceed $24 million. Supporters of the bill suggested that the 8% tax could go higher.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, sports betting is offered in at least 20 states (including Tennessee and Virginia) and DC. After a 2018 ruling by the US Supreme Court, interest in sports betting exploded. Thanks to the 2019 legislation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians launched on-site betting operations at its two casinos in western North Carolina.

Opposition Runs High in the Tar Heel State

A group of Christian conservatives and at least one progressive Democrat opposed Thursday’s measure, arguing that it would lead to more gambling addictions, disproportionately hurt the poor and more social ills.

Representative Deb Butler of New Hanover County, stated, “However you characterize this, it is a wild expansion of gambling in North Carolina.”  She also dismissed the existence of sports gambling in the state, asserting, “I think that it is clear to me that it is going to affect those who can arguably least afford it the most.”

Ches McDowell is a lobbyist for MLB, the NBA and the PGA Tour. He also pointed out that the bill would provide more money to help with problem gambling. He said that gambling regulation will also help to preserve the integrity and sports results, which could be challenged when large offshore bets raise concerns.

McDowell stated that North Carolina is losing out to other states when it comes to attracting new events and franchises. This is because the state lacks in-state gambling that could benefit leagues. He said that they have a better sports market because sports betting is an additional revenue stream.

Frank Iler, a Republican Representative from Brunswick County, was a member of the committee and said that he was open to letting the measure move but not committed to supporting it in floor votes.

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