It’s been slow going for a sports betting bill in North Carolina, but things usually move a little slower in the Tar Heel State. However, it seems that Senate Bill 688 is now being given new life and will start to move forward again, possibly this week. North Carolinians still shouldn’t expect a lot of momentum for the bill and it’s unlikely that the finish line will be reached until sometime next year.
North Carolina Reignites Sports Betting Bill
Sports betting first arrived in North Carolina through the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who didn’t have to follow the same route as commercial sportsbooks. 2019 brought about changes to state laws that allowed the tribe to eventually sign a new gaming compact to offer sports betting operations at its two casinos, but lawmakers always hoped to be able to expand the reach across the state. A bill was introduced earlier this year to achieve that goal; however, as quickly as it emerged, it fell off the radar – until now.
Senate Bill 688 (SB 688) wants to see sportsbooks pop up across the state in order to fund education programs. It emerged at the beginning of April by Senators Jim Perry and Paul Lowe and, according to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, the bill is about to get new legs after not seeing any movement since then. The Senate Republican caucus has put its support behind the bill, allowing it to move forward.
As with most bills, it’s unlikely that SB 688 will retain its original form by the time it’s done passing through the political maze. Initially calling for online and physical sportsbooks, the bill will probably see a number of changes and amendments before reaching the finish line. North Carolina has traditionally been more conservative when it comes to issues like gambling, and finding widespread support for the bill is expected to be more difficult than what has been seen in neighboring states like Tennessee.
A Long Road Ahead
Even as states all around it introduce legal sports betting, North Carolina could be more hesitant. Even Perry appears to be a little unsure about its chances of survival, not sounding confident when asked about its odds. According to local media outlet WRAL, he asserts, “Based upon the feedback I’ve gotten, we should view this bill as a placeholder bill and it will evolve in the committee process. A tightening up, watering down, whatever you want to call it.” When asked if the bill will survive as-is as it moves through the legislative channels, he responded,” It’ll go through the committee process. The bill sponsors tell me that there’s support for it. We will see.”
Should the bill make it to the finish line, Governor Roy Cooper is already waiting, pen in hand. Understanding that North Carolinians are betting anyway, he and the bill’s supporters are happy to capitalize on the revenue possibilities. According to some estimates, as much as $50 million could be seen in state revenue each year, a significant amount of money that would go to worthwhile goals. Even Perry’s own mother is said to be against the bill, but that hasn’t stopped him from wanting to legalize the activity that is already taking place behind closed doors.