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North Carolina Sports Betting Avoids Landmines On Way To House Passage

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 29, 2023
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The North Carolina House of Representatives passed North Carolina sports betting legislation Wednesday.

It’s a significant step forward for online sports betting in North Carolina to get through the House, where it failed by a single vote last year.

This time, the vote wasn’t even particularly close. House Bill 347 passed 64-45 Wednesday after passing 66-45 on second reading the previous day.

“The overwhelming majority of people view sports betting as a form of entertainment that consenting adults should have the right to do,” bill sponsor Rep. Jason Saine said.

North Carolina sports betting House passage goes smoothly

Last year, Saine brought North Carolina sports betting legislation to the floor because he thought the votes were there.

But opponent arguments on the floor made the difference in defeating the bill. Those same opponents spoke against the bill this week.

But these 17 proposed amendments were defeated Tuesday and Wednesday:

  • Ban college sports betting.
  • Increase sports betting license fees from $1 million to $10 million.
  • Delay the launch from 2024 to 2026.
  • Ban betting on Olympic and amateur sports.
  • Raise tax rate to match New York’s 51%.
  • Ban promotional credits.
  • Prohibit family members of athletes from betting on their events.
  • Increase the maximum fine for sportsbook violations from $10,000 to $1 million.
  • Prohibit sports betting ads on TV, radio, print media and billboards.
  • Requiring sportsbook operators to furnish a bond backing up taxes due rather than leaving it up to the Secretary of Revenue.
  • Study on creating a North Carolina Gaming Commission.
  • Prohibit betting with credit cards.
  • Remove tax break on promotional credits.
  • Raise tax rate to match Pennsylvania’s 36%.
  • Remove online wagering aspect, limiting it to in-person and sports facilities.
  • Create betting limits of $505 per day, $2,000 per week and $4,000 per month, same as the lottery.
  • Include private historically black colleges and universities in scholarship funds from revenue.

Some lawmakers not happy with amendment response

Last year, the debate started getting away from Saine when Rep. John Autry proposed an amendment to remove betting on college sports and it passed.

Any one of these amendments had the potential to derail the bill again. But all were voted down soundly.

Saine even took the rare stance not to yield to questions from the amendment authors.

That didn’t sit well some colleagues.

Rep. Abe Jones said:

“The gambling bill industry knows they got North Carolina now. So the word is out, no amendments. Nothing. Not a single one yesterday, not a single one today. Thoughtful amendments, worthy amendments. Amendments that wouldn’t take anything really out of their pockets, or at least out of the state’s pocket. But the gambling industry wants to make all of the money it can possibly make.”

Rep. Maria Cervania said she wasn’t opposed to sports betting and would have voted for it on third reading if the process went differently. She said the bill wasn’t written for the people of North Carolina but for the industry, and lawmakers weren’t given the opportunity to change that on the floor.

“As some of my colleagues have suggested, this is not a great deal. We have a body that opens itself up to amendments to make bills better. We did not get afforded that opportunity, and that made me suspect of this process at the end point.”

Saine repeatedly responded that the bill went through the committee process and received input from anyone interested.

North Carolina sports betting details

The North Carolina sports betting legislation allows for 10-to-12 online sportsbook operators along with retail sportsbooks in or around North Carolina professional sports venues.

Additional details of HB 347:

  • Appoints the North Carolina State Lottery Commission to oversee sports betting.
  • Guarantees interactive sports betting licenses to federally recognized North Carolina Indian tribes. These licenses don’t count toward the cap of 12 awarded by the Commission.
  • Prohibits operators from taking online sports wagers originating from tribal lands.
  • Charges $1 million every five years for an interactive sports wagering license.
  • Service providers pay $50,000 for a five-year license and suppliers pay $30,000.
  • Sets the tax rate at 14%.
  • Mandates operators use official league data for in-play wagers.

Opponents make last effort to stop passage

After receiving debate on second reading, most bills pass on third reading without much discussion.

But North Carolina sports betting isn’t most bills. The opponents made one last plea for colleagues to defeat the legislation.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon spoke of his childhood best friend committing suicide 25 years ago due to a gambling addiction.

Autry asked his colleagues to put the North Carolina sports betting efforts to rest by voting no.

“We’re going to put up gates to allow betting on professional sports, college sports, amateur sports, Olympic sports. Why not high school sports? Why aren’t high school sports included? I think the reason for that is why we shouldn’t be doing this. Let’s keep the values of North Carolina in the proper place, not up to the odds makers.”

Rep. Tim Longest said that, as one of the younger members of the House, he is part of the target demographic for sportsbooks. And that’s why he is against the bill.

“Because of those enormous social costs that come with this, I think that this is a bad deal for the state of North Carolina. They say that the house always wins when it comes to gambling. I’m concerned that this House is not going to win, and above all it’s the people of North Carolina that are going to lose.”

Senate prospects for North Carolina sports betting

North Carolina appears to be the most likely state to legalize commercial sports betting this year.

North Carolina already has sports betting at three tribal casinos.

The bill advances to the Senate, which already passed North Carolina sports betting legislation last year.

Once passed by the Senate, it would just need the signature of Gov. Roy Cooper. Cooper included sports betting revenue in the executive budget, anticipating its passage.

Sen. Jim Perry told PlayUSA that he expects the Senate will make changes to HB 347. That would cause the bill to go back to the House for concurrence or for the chambers to form a conference committee to work out their differences on the legislation. Perry introduced the North Carolina sports betting bill that passed the Senate last year.

North Carolina’s legislative session adjourns Aug. 31.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Written by
Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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