The North Carolina Senate passed sports betting legislation Thursday. The bill could be on the way to the governor’s desk by Wednesday next week.
A day after advancing HB 347 on second reading, the North Carolina Senate passed the bill to authorize online sports betting 37-11. The bill also authorizes parimutuel wagering, an addition made in the Senate.
North Carolina sports betting legislation heads back to the House for concurrence. Concurrence is a two-step process because the bill includes a tax/revenue component.
Rep. Jason Saine told PlayUSA that he expects the House to concur with Senate changes Tuesday and Wednesday.
“My Senate counterparts have been great to work with through the entire process and apprised me and the other bill sponsors of the changes,” Saine said. “We are good to concur with their changes.”
Once the bill gets legislative approval, it can head to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, who has long expressed his support for legalizing online sports wagering. Cooper previously signed legislation allowing sports betting on tribal lands.
VLTs almost complicated NC sports betting passage
Wednesday after Senate passage on second reading, House Speaker Tim Moore told WRAL reporter Brian Murphy that he does not favor concurrence. He would rather expand the sports betting bill to include commercial casinos and video lottery terminals (VLTs).
The House Commerce Committee heard HB 512 to regulate VLTs last week. People in Missouri know how VLTs can derail sports betting passage.
Following Moore’s comments, Saine was still confident in House concurrence. He told PlayUSA:
“The Speaker does not control the bill. The four main sponsors of the bill will not accept the other language to alter the bill.”
By Thursdsay morning, Murphy reported that Moore changed his tune and said the House would concur with Senate changes.
“Let’s go ahead and get this one,” Moore told Murphy. “If there are other gaming issues, let’s deal with them separately.”
Amendment defeated on Senate floor
The Senate vote shows how much progress authorizing statewide sports betting has made in North Carolina over the past two years. In 2021, the Senate passed a similar bill by a much closer vote of 26-19.
Sen. Lisa Graftstein, who spoke against the bill on second reading, attempted an amendment Thursday. The amendment would have made it so if any part of the bill was found unconstitutional by the courts, the entire bill would be unenforceable.
Grafstein said her concern was based on the 18% tax. North Carolina law limits income tax to 7%. But bill sponsors argue the gaming tax isn’t a tax on income.
Grafstein worries that if a court found the tax unconstitutional, operators could continue offering online sports wagering without contributing any revenue to the state. The Senate defeated her amendment 30-18.
Details of North Carolina sports betting bill
Here are the main details of HB 347 as being passed by the Senate:
- Appoints the North Carolina Lottery Commission (NCLC) to oversee sports betting licensing and regulations.
- Allows for up to 12 online sportsbook operators.
- Interactive sports wagering licensees are encouraged to partner with eight North Carolina professional sports venues to offer retail sportsbooks.
- Guarantees interactive sports betting licenses to two federally recognized North Carolina Indian tribes — the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Catawba Indian Nation. These tribal licenses don’t count toward the cap of 12 awarded by the commission.
- Operators not partnered with tribes must use geofencing to ensure that people are not located on Indian lands when placing a wager.
- Online sports betting licenses cost $1 million every five years.
- Levies an 18% tax on gross gaming wagers with no deductions for promotional credits.
- Service providers pay $50,000 for a five-year license and suppliers pay $30,000.
- Advance deposit wagering licensees pay an initial $1 million application fee.
- Advanced deposit wagering licensees pay an annual 1% tax on total parimutuel wagers.
Senate changes to North Carolina sports betting bill
Here are some of the key changes to HB 347 made by the Senate:
- Added licensing for parimutuel wagering.
- Removed the minimum of 10 online sports betting operator licenses.
- Provided added time for the NCLC to prepare the North Carolina sports betting market for launch. Rather than setting launch for Jan. 8, regulators have up to one year from when the bill is signed into law.
- Increased the tax rate from 14% to 18%.
- Removed deductions of promotional credits.
If the House did not concur with the changes, it would lead to a conference committee. In a conference committee, designees from the leader of each chamber would meet to hash out the differences.
Sports facility participation in NC sports betting
Interactive sports wagering licensees are encouraged to partner with sports teams and entities to offer retail sportsbooks at professional sports venues. The bill calls these sportsbooks public places of accommodation.
The teams or sporting venues themselves won’t require licenses. But these partnerships will be considered during the application process for sports betting operators.
Here are the eight sporting venues that could have retail sportsbooks:
- Bank of America Stadium (Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC)
- Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR)
- North Wilkesboro Speedway (NASCAR)
- PNC Arena (Carolina Hurricanes)
- Quail Hollow Club (PGA Tour)
- Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park (North Carolina FC and North Carolina Courage)
- Sedgefield Country Club (PGA Tour)
- Spectrum Center (Charlotte Hornets)