The North Carolina sports betting bill, passed by the state Senate in August 2021, is expected to finally receive consideration in the General Assembly’s lower chamber.
Senate Bill 688 gained favor in the upper chamber last August by way of a 26-19 vote. The statute seeks to authorize mobile sports betting, with qualified operators paying a one-time upfront licensing fee of $500,000 and an annual renewal of $100,000.
The legislation proposes an 8% tax on gross sports betting revenue derived online. The bill additionally seeks to allow professional sports stadiums and arenas and other pro sports venues, such as PGA Tour golf courses, to offer on-site retail sports betting during live events.
SB 688 stalled in the House after it was passed by the House Commerce and Job Development Committee last year. The bill currently resides with the House Judiciary 1 Standing Committee, where members are expected to finally take up the measure this week.
For the North Carolina sports betting bill to move forward to a full House floor vote, the bill must first receive the blessing of the House Judiciary 1 Standing Committee and then the chamber’s Finance Committee and Rules and Operations Committee.
With SB 688 essentially representing North Carolina’s first potential authorization of commercial gambling outside of its state-run lottery, state lawmakers say the lengthy legislative timeline is warranted.
We have known that this bill would require a deliberate step-by-step process,” explained state Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), one of the bill’s primary co-sponsors.
Lowe told the Winston-Salem Journal this week that he believes there’s adequate bipartisan support in the House to move the gaming bill to Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) desk.
North Carolina’s potential sports betting industry would be primarily online through mobile operations. The state does not have commercial casinos, only tribal facilities in the southwestern part of the state-owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Catawba Indian Nation.
The tribes gained in-person sports betting privileges in 2019. That’s after the state agreed to amend Class III gaming compacts with Indian nations to allow gambling on professional and collegiate sports. But the first legal sports bet in North Carolina wasn’t facilitated until March of 2021 when sportsbooks began operating at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River.
If the North Carolina sports betting bill reaches Cooper’s desk this year, the House will need to act swiftly. The Assembly is in its abbreviated biannual session to adjourn on June 30.
Backers of the sports betting effort point to the fact that sports gambling is already occurring in the state through unlawful, unregulated means that provide no tax benefit to the state. The Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division believes the state could collect as much as $50 million a year in annual tax revenue through regulated online sports betting.
“I’d hate to lose that revenue,” said Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln). “But we’re not going to go too fast to where we can’t handle it.”
Lowe added that legal sports betting is not only in the best interest of the state but also consumers, as regulated sportsbooks would make sports wagering “much safer.”