North Carolina legislation to authorize statewide regulated sports betting and horse race wagering is heading to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, who again this week expressed support for the move. The state’s General Assembly finalized the legislation on Wednesday, which is poised to open the nation’s ninth-largest state to a lucrative and new legal gambling option.
The House agreed 69-44 for changes completed last week by the Senate to the bill, which would allow online betting on professional, college and Olympic-style sports and some in-person betting to adults 21 and over, starting in the next six to 12 months.
“This is something that has been going on. The North Carolina taxpayers should get the benefit of this,” Cooper, who is expected to sign the bill into law, said this week on the Ovies & Giglio podcast show. “It’s pretty good legislation now.”
House members tentatively voted for the Senate version of the bill on Tuesday. Stakeholders against gambling attempted to block the proposal on Wednesday – a move they were successful in doing to a similar bill nearly a year ago – but the effort failed.
With the lawmakers who opposed the bill in 2022 no longer in the House for this session and sports wagering companies and pro sports teams ramping up their lobbying efforts, the bill had built key support to pass. As a result, nearly half of the House’s members sponsored the initial measure that cleared the chamber in March, and the final bill passed both chambers of the legislature with bipartisan support.
The measure is expected to bring the illegal sports betting market in place out of the shadows. While sports wagering is currently available in North Carolina on a retail basis at the state’s three casinos, the lack of general and convenient access has led many bettors to gamble on sports through illegal bookies and offshore sites.
While sports betting could launch as early as January, the gambling commissioners would have until June 2024 to open the market, which would put North Carolina on the same playing field as bordering states Virginia and Tennessee. Rep. Jason Saine, the chief bill sponsor, admitted that gambling across borders played a significant role in gaining support for passage this year.
“At some point, they know that we're losing money to other states, so I think that was a big driver in either changing minds or getting people that have not considered it before on board,” Saine said