North Carolina sports betting legislation found majority support this morning in the state Senate. The motion to legalize mobile sportsbooks and sports wagering facilities located near major sports venues passed 26-19.
The bipartisan vote now moves Senate Bill 688 to the North Carolina House of Representatives.
The legislation allows for sportsbooks to offer odds on professional, collegiate, and some amateur sports. The North Carolina Lottery Commission, which would oversee and regulate sports betting, would decide whether to permit wagering on certain amateur events.
Since North Carolina doesn’t have any commercial casinos or horse racetrack racinos, sports betting would predominantly be conducted online. But retail facilities could be built at the state’s three professional sports venues — Spectrum Center, Bank of America Stadium, and PNC Arena.
Other major sporting events, such as the PGA Tour’s two annual stops in Charlotte and Greensboro, would also qualify to have on-site sports betting.
Initial licensing fees for mobile operators would cost $500,000, with renewals set at $100,000 every five years. Gross gaming revenue from sports betting would be subject to an eight percent tax.
State fiscal estimates vary wildly for sports betting upon market maturity. Budget experts say North Carolina should expect to receive anywhere between $8 million to $24 million annually from sports gambling.
Gaming Always Divisive
Sports betting is already legal and operational in North Carolina.
The state’s Class III gaming compact with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) allows the tribe to conduct sports betting at its two casinos — Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. The Catawba Nation, based in South Carolina, is also building a $273 million casino resort in Kings Mountain, 35 miles west of Charlotte. It will be on land the federal government recently took into trust for the tribe, and there are plans to offer sports betting at its forthcoming property.
SB688 would legalize commercial sports betting. The lottery, if the legislation passes, would be tasked with issuing “at least 10, but not more than 12, interactive sports wagering licenses.” Tribes could also apply to receive mobile sports betting privileges, as their compacts currently allow only for in-person sportsbooks. Tribal online sports betting licenses would not count towards the 10-12 interactive commercial licenses.
Any form of gambling in the deeply religious and conservative state always garners criticism.
Members, this bill produces very little money, and it targets young people, and I plan to vote against it,” Sen. Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) told the Senate prior to SB688 vote.
“Senate Bill 688 will result in tens of thousands more of our state citizens and their families being victimized by gambling addiction,” declared John Rustin of the NC Family Policy Council. “Problems from pathological gambling manifests itself in acts of theft, embezzlement, job loss, personal bankruptcy, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, divorce, and even suicide.”
Sports Betting for Students
Supporters said sports betting will help education. The bill mandates that the eight percent tax on sports gambling revenue be split between a newly formed fund that would be used to promote North Carolina as a tourism destination, and the other half going to the state’s general fund.
Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir) told his colleagues that approximately 58 percent of the general fund is used to support state education.
This is a revenue bill. This could bring revenue to our state,” Sen. Paul Lower (D-Winston-Salem) announced in agreeing with Perry.
SB688 has yet to be assigned to a House committee for initial review in the lower chamber.