A North Carolina House panel has advanced two bills to legalize online sports betting in the state. The proposals were greenlighted on Tuesday afternoon, moving closer to a passage and keeping hopes alive as the end of the current legislative session nears. The legislation would see sports gaming launching as early as January 1, 2023.
The two sports gambling bills were approved by the House Judiciary I Committee with minor amendments, which double the amount of money to $2 million a year for problem gambling treatment, according to WRAL-TV. The bills work in tandem to legalize sports wagering throughout the state online and on mobile devices.
The amendments also prohibit wagering on amateur sports, defined largely as Olympic events in the bills. The proposals passed with six yes votes, three no votes, and one abstention. They are scheduled for two more committees -House Finance Committee and House Rules Committee- and could be before the full chamber for voting as soon as Wednesday night.
Senate Bill 688 passed a divided Senate last year. The text of Senate Bill 38, an unrelated bill that also passed the Senate in 2021, was removed and changed to a sports gambling bill on Tuesday. SB 38 raises the fees and tax rates proposed in SB 688 to be paid by sports wagering operators.
North Carolina State Legislative building
Under this new proposal, operators would pay a 15% tax on gross wagering revenue minus winnings paid out plus promotional credits and federal excise tax. The deduction for promotions and credit would be phased out in five years, according to the cited source. The original bill proposed an 8% tax rate and did not sunset the deductions for promotional credits. There is a $1 million application fee for sportsbook operators and a $1 million fee for license renewal.
Should the bills be signed into law under their current versions, legalized online sports gambling could launch as early as January 1, a date later than in previous estimates. Previous plans suggested sports betting could be legalized in time for the upcoming football season, according to WCNC.
The legislation would authorize gambling on professional, college and electronic sports, as well as horse racing. Betting on youth sports -events in which the majority of competitors are under 18 or competing on behalf of preschool, elementary, middle or secondary schools- isn’t permitted.
Despite critics of legalized sports betting in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses, legislation supporters believe they have the votes to pass legislation this year. If the bills pass the House, the Senate would then still have to concur with the changes made to SB 38, but that bill wouldn’t have to go through Senate committees.
NC Gov. Roy Cooper, a legalization supporter
Lawmakers have until the end of June to wrap up the current session and wouldn’t meet again until January, unless a special session is called. Gov. Roy Cooper, who has shown support for online sports betting legalization, would sign the legislation.
Online sports betting counts with support from the state’s pro teams. NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and NFL’s Carolina Panthers, along with Charlotte Motor Speedway, all support the legislation. Meanwhile, the state’s top athletic colleges have stayed quiet on the proposal. Some lawmakers have attempted to introduce amendments to prohibit betting on college sports to no avail.
Sports betting is currently legal in North Carolina, but only on a retail basis at two tribal-owned casinos in the western part of the state, meaning a large part of North Carolinians currently do not have convenient access to legal sportsbooks. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba can apply for online licenses, but those wouldn’t count toward the total number of operators in the state.
Under the proposed law, at least 10 and up to 12 online operators would be licensed to take online bets. Initial projections indicate the state could potentially collect between $8 million and $24 million per year in tax revenue, although these figures could further rise if lawmakers adopt the higher tax rates proposed in the second bill. Virginia and Tennessee each have legal online sports betting, which has led some North Carolina legislators to propose adopting similar measures.
The first $2 million in tax revenue after expenses for the Department of Revenue and the N.C. Lottery Commission would be earmarked for the Department of Health and Human Services to set up gambling addiction education and treatment programs.
After that, revenue is split 50-50 between a newly created North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund -tasked with bringing major sporting events to the state- and the state’s General Fund. Local entities would be allowed to apply for a grant from the major events fund. Sen. Jim Perry, a bill sponsor, said Tuesday that lawmakers were considering lowering the percentage earmarked for this fund.
“We had a ton of other people involved in this, and it was slow-moving and a lot of conversations. This is an individual issue and some are comfortable, some are not,” Perry, a Lenoir County Republican, told WITN.