North Carolina Sports Betting Regains Momentum with Committee Approvals

Two bills would lay down the legal foundation for online sports betting in North Carolina, as the state already has sports betting available on the properties of two Native American casinos.

Last Updated: Jun 22, 2022 3:42 PM ET Read Time: 2 min
Caleb Love North Carolina Tar Heels NCAA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Two bills that could legally bring online sports betting to North Carolina are making progress, breathing life into the effort to bring mobile wagering to the Tar Heel State with just days left in the latest legislative session. 

The House Committee on Judiciary 1 on Tuesday tweaked and advanced Senate Bill 38 and then favorably reported Senate Bill 688, which was passed by the Senate last year. The two bills would lay down the legal foundation for online sports betting in North Carolina, as the state already has sports betting available on the properties of two Native American casinos. 

But before becoming law, both bills need to be passed by the House of Representatives. That will have to happen by the end of June when the Republican-controlled legislature is scheduled to adjourn. 

The bills provide for 10 to 12 mobile sports betting licenses in North Carolina. Legal mobile sports betting wouldn't start in the state until at least Jan. 1, 2023, according to the legislation. 

Meanwhile, SB 38 sets a “privilege” tax rate of 14% of adjusted gross revenue, up from the 8% originally envisioned by SB 688. Republican Sen. Jim Perry told committee members on Tuesday that as they were examining the industry and the structure of sports betting in bordering states, such as Virginia, they decided they wanted to charge a fee for holding a mobile license.

“If you don't pay your privilege tax, you lose your privilege,” Perry said. “So you would lose the license.”

Eyes on the prize

North Carolina could be a prized market for sportsbook operators, as it is the ninth-most populous state in the U.S. The southern state's sporting interests also vary from those up north, with a rabid NASCAR fanbase, among other things. 

The sports-betting bills (one lawmaker called SB 688 "the platform" and SB 38 the "refining document") were before the House's finance committee on Wednesday morning and the legislation was again tweaked and advanced. It then moved to the House's rules committee on Wednesday afternoon and was once more amended and favorably reported. 

Under the current proposal, 30% of the tax collected from sports wagering would go to the “North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund,” the money which would be used to attract major events to the state. SB 38 would bump up the licensing fee as well, to $1 million from the originally proposed $500,000, and includes a $1-million renewal fee for the five-year permits.

No guarantees

Yet, there is no guarantee the sports-betting bills will be passed. Perry said there were some “major changes” made to the legislation, which will still have to be weighed by other members of the House (and could also require Senate approval, depending on the finished product). Some of those members may be more socially conservative than others or represent constituencies that are vocally anti-gambling.

"I think it's very critical to understand that the primary reason for a prohibition on something like gambling is because the commerce of vices undermines the liberty of ordinary citizens," said Rev. Mark Creech, the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, during the rules-committee meeting on Wednesday. "Where social vices are made legal, marketed, and sold, we're giving to one group of our citizens permission to subjugate their fellow citizens for their own private gain."

The bills have faced opposition in committee hearings from House members, but enough to stop their progress. 

“I'm not going to use my vote from this place to support gambling,” Democratic Rep. Abe Jones said during the committee meeting on Tuesday. “I think it's wrong.”

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