North Carolina Sports Betting Bills Give Lawmakers Options, as Session Nears End

Two North Carolina sports betting bills gained favor in a House committee this week. The committee vote cleared the way for what’s expected to be a last-minute Hail Mary effort by the General Assembly to  legalize gambling on sports.

Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, home of the NFL Carolina Panthers. North Carolina sports betting could become legal online and at professional sports venues later this year. (Image: AP)

The North Carolina Senate passed its sports betting statute, Senate Bill 688, last August. The bill stalled in the House upon receipt, as conservative lawmakers in the lower chamber raised concerns that more gambling means more addiction. Liberal lawmakers also clouded the legislative process by expressing their desires to provide social equity through any expansion of gaming.

Ten months after SB 688 reached the House Judiciary 1 Committee, the group yesterday voted 6-3 in favor of moving the bill forward. But instead of amending the Senate sports betting bill, the Judiciary 1 Committee introduced and passed its own separate sports betting proposal — also by a 6-3 vote.

Senate Bill 38, the new sports betting pitch, greatly differs from the original Senate sports gambling statute. With the Judiciary 1 Committee’s blessing, the two bills moved to the House Finance and Rules committees today, where they were swiftly endorsed.

Bill Disparities

With the committees backing SB 688 and SB 38, the full North Carolina House of Representatives will determine the next steps for legalizing sports betting.

If the chamber passes SB 688 without changes, the bill would head to Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) desk. He has expressed support for such commercial gambling. But if SB 38 is also passed, the bills would go to the Senate for consideration. If SB 688 is rejected by the House but SB 38 is approved, the new measure would still go to the Senate.

Key differences between the two bills include SB 38 seeking to increase the proposed effective tax rate on gross sports betting revenue from 8% to 14%. Licensing fees, good for five years, jump from $500,000 in SB 688 to $1 million in SB 38.

SB 38 additionally seeks to double the amount of funds allocated for funding gambling addiction programs to $2 million annually. The new sports betting bill also qualifies motorsports racetracks that host NASCAR events to incorporate retail sportsbooks. SB 688 erroneously left out such venues, only listing professional sports stadiums and PGA Tour golf courses for in-person sportsbooks.

We inadvertently left NASCAR out,” said Sen. Jim Perry (R-Kinston), a sponsor of the original sports betting bill. “And in North Carolina, that is a very bad thing.”

Legal sports betting is already operational in North Carolina, but only in-person at tribal casinos. The bills would greatly expand sports gambling in the Tar Heel State by allowing fully online sportsbook operators to take bets over the internet.

Session End Approaching

The North Carolina General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for its 2022 legislative session at the end of the month. That gives lawmakers only a week to settle on a sports betting bill and move the statute to the governor.

Despite the time crunch, supporters of the legislation say it’s possible that North Carolina becomes a commercial sports betting state this year.

“We have the votes. There’s momentum. There’s bipartisanship,” concluded Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln).

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