North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Takes A Baby Step Toward Passage

A North Carolina bill aimed at legalizing sports betting within the state moved through the House Commerce Committee last Thursday. 

While it’s a step forward for the bill, which received Senate approval in August, it’s still far from the finish line. The legislation needs to go through three additional House committees before reaching the House floor. The next step for SB 688 is approval from the House Judiciary I Committee.

“It’s got a long way to go,” Rep. Jason Saine told the Associated Press. 

Saine told the AP that there isn’t a need to rush the bill through this year’s legislative session. The bill could still be considered in 2022, even if it doesn’t advance this year. 

North Carolina tries to catch up to neighbors

If the measure is eventually approved, the North Carolina Education Lottery would be tasked with giving out between 10-12 interactive sports wagering operator licenses. Operators would be taxed at 8% of gross gaming revenue.

Tennessee and Virginia — both of which border North Carolina — offer statewide mobile sports betting. Virginia has collected more than $12 million in tax revenue since operators launched  in January. 

Tennessee has collected nearly $27 million in tax revenue since it launched the first four operators on Nov. 1, 2020

North Carolina does have two retail sportsbook locations owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Those retail sportsbooks — at the Harrah’s Casinos in Cherokee and Murphy — went live in March just ahead of the NCAA basketball tournament. The North Carolina legislature made that possible by passing a law in July 2019 making retail sports wagering legal at licensed locations on tribal lands. 

In addition to SB 688, a nearly identical House bill was introduced in April. No action has been taken on that bill since April, as the Senate bill seems to be progressing instead.

Despite nearby states taking advantage of the revenue stream created by mobile betting, not every North Carolina decision-maker is on board with legalizing widespread mobile sports wagering. 

Rep. Deb Butler, a Democrat, is among those concerned that allowing mobile sports betting across the state could disproportionately affect poor people and lead to gambling addictions. Advocates for legalization argue that North Carolina natives already bet on sports, but by using black market options instead of the regulated offerings that could become monitored and taxed by the state. 

“This is something that we can’t ignore,” Rep. John Hardister, a Republican, told the AP. “It’s already here. We need to establish the framework, we need to derive the revenue.”

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