After advancing through two committees, North Carolina sports betting legislation is ready for Senate floor action.
The Senate Finance and Rules and Operations committees passed HB 347 on Tuesday.
The Senate is preparing to take up North Carolina sports betting legislation for second reading Wednesday. Third reading and Senate passage could come Thursday.
Finance joined the Commerce and Insurance Committee in amending the bill passed by the House. Because the Senate is making changes to the legislation, HB 347 must return to the House for concurrence.
Historical horse racing removed from bill
Last week, the Commerce and Insurance Committee added parimutuel wagering on horse races to the bill.
The language conspicuously included the possibility of future North Carolina horse racetracks offering slot-like historical horse racing machines.
The committee substitute read:
“An individual shall be permitted to place wagers on previously run horse races when physically located at a facility conducting a live horse race in the state.”
The Finance Committee amendment removed all references to “previously run” horse races, leaving only parimutuel betting. The change could avoid opposition from North Carolina’s Indian tribes that operate three tribal casinos.
North Carolina sports betting launch could take longer
The bill previously set Jan. 8 as a possible launch date for North Carolina sports betting.
At the request of the North Carolina Lottery Commission, the Finance amendment clarifies that the Commission will determine the launch date.
But that date must be no later than 12 months after the act becomes law. The bill becomes law upon getting the governor’s signature.
The amendment also stipulates launch happen “as soon as practicable.”
Finance Committee talks numbers
The Finance Committee discussed an updated fiscal note based on Senate changes to the bill.
Emma Turner, chief economist for the NC General Assembly, explained that Fiscal Research Division projects $11.8 million in tax revenue in year one. At market maturity, tax revenue projections for the state reach $100.6 million.
At market maturity, that’s $44.8 million going to the state’s general fund annually.
In addition to paying regulatory costs, revenue also would go to the Department of Health and Human Services for gambling addiction education and treatment programs, the North Carolina Youth Outdoor Engagement Commission to promote youth sports, and the athletic departments of many Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Opponents continue to testify against bill
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, and John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Policy Council, continued to testify against online sports betting legalization in each committee.
Creech adjusted his comments for the Finance Committee, focusing on sports betting as an online business that would hurt small businesses in North Carolina.
“Sports gaming competes with retail by diverting consumer’s discretionary income. Instead of spending on retail goods and essential services, individuals place sports bets. And this can result in reduced revenue, job cuts and closures for small businesses, which can either stall or lower the state’s economic growth rate. Sports gaming has vast marketing and advertising resources for media platforms … and most retail or small businesses can’t compete.”
Senate sponsor makes case for NC sports betting
Sen. Tim Moffitt pitched the bill in both committees as the lead Senate sponsor. In Rules, he answered the concerns of the religious leaders by saying that he was not conflicted in thinking that legalizing and regulating sports betting was the right way to go.
He knew that sports betting was already occurring daily in North Carolina without regulatory protections. He said best estimates were that North Carolinians placed $1.7 billion in sports bets last year.
“When faced with sports wagering in our state, in order for us to have a voice, in order for us to have an opportunity to manage something that is occurring with a tremendous amount of frequency, then we must authorize it first so that we can regulate it. And as part of that regulatory construct, through taxation, we can create a public benefit that can also help us manage and influence something that is occurring.”
Moffitt shared that he and his wife have five sons, ages 26 to 31. And that he thought this bill was thoughtfully constructed with regulatory guardrails to allow them to participate in this market and protect them.
“Undoubtedly, this group of young men that we are the proud parents of are going to be part of the market that will participate in this,” Moffitt said. “And the reason I say that is every step of this process that I’ve been involved in, every sentence, every letter of every word that builds this statutory framework, I think of the impact it is going to have on them.”