Published: July 9, 2022

North Carolina's sports gambling bill failed by 1 vote. Here’s what must happen next

OPINON BY Staff at The News & Observer

On June 21, the N.C. House voted 50-51 to defeat a bill that would have allowed government sanctioned mobile sports gambling in North Carolina. If you had placed a bet that the bill would pass after intense lobbying from the gambling promoters coupled with large campaign investments, you would have lost — just like most people who gamble.

We believe the defeat of the mobile gambling bill is a good thing and here’s why: Gambling is based on odds. To make it highly profitable and addictive, the dealer always wins. The dealers in mobile sports betting are multi-billion dollar companies each having to pay $1 million in license fees to do business. It’s a predatory industry which lures customers by saturating advertising markets on billboards, cell phones, the internet, and even emblems on athletes’ uniforms. Set up an account, take out your smartphone, and start betting on the spread. You may go up a few times, but it’s a certainty you’ll wind up losing. The promise to North Carolina was an infusion of money from gambling revenue to supplement the general fund, sporting event promotions, and $2 million for gambling addiction programs. The money comes out of the pockets of average gamblers. Promises of a tax windfall to the state often won’t pan out. In Virginia, residents bet $3.7 billion but only $2.7 million revenue was gained. In North Carolina, less the two tenths of one percent of revenue is projected to come in.

This is a regressive tax that will hit low-income people. Far more revenue can come in by maintaining a minimal corporate tax rate. Proponents argue that gambling already happens and if we regulate it the black markets will disappear. Facts show otherwise. Illegal gambling continues. Making the market legal will not evaporate the illegal market, it will only compound the problem. The “sports betting” tag will open the door to the expansion of a much more profitable market of casino and e-sports gambling. Despite the mobile gambling bill defeat, it will return. There can be room for compromise for those who want to place bets. Allow it in person at a professional sports stadium, in cash. But let’s have sensible boundaries. Fingers on a cell phone is going too far.

After a week of debate and negotiations in Raleigh last week, members of the North Carolina General Assembly were unable to reach agreement on a bill to expand Medicaid to over 600,000 of our neighbors. Nor is Medicaid expansion included in the proposed state budget. North Carolina’s hospitals and health systems are disappointed that this hasn’t been resolved.

We urge state legislators to get expansion done sooner rather than later. We have long believed in a vision of a North Carolina where high-quality healthcare is equitable and accessible to all. Getting it done is essential to allow all N.C. residents a shot at enjoying health and productive lives. Polls have shown that a majority of North Carolinians support closing the coverage gap. A joint appeal from multiple business alliances has said it makes good business sense. The North Carolina Healthcare Association has said it is needed to rescue rural hospitals, in addition to being the morally right step. Politically, there’s little downside to expanding Medicaid and plenty of upside. The utility of it is positive and inarguable. Hospitals will foot the bill for whatever share of the tab is not picked up by the federal government. Through the proposed Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program, we’ve developed the infrastructure to pay the state’s share of expansion. Both programs would result in bringing billions of our tax dollars back into North Carolina. Getting more people healthcare, improving health outcomes, and bringing more money into the state is a no-brainer. As Thomas Paine, might have said: Closing the coverage gap in 2022 is ‘common sense.’

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