North Carolina Senate Approves Sports Betting Bill, House Vote Next

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The North Carolina Senate passed Thursday a sports betting legislation, a day after the upper chamber approved the measure on its second reading.

On Thursday, the state senators approved Senate Bill 688 by a vote of 26-19 without even any discussion on the measure. The lawmakers had approved the bill, which also contains online sports betting, in its second reading, 26-21, a day earlier.

The measure allows for up to 12 mobile sports betting licenses and includes major professional sports teams as key stakeholders.

SB 688 now moves to the House, which appears to be more divided on the issue than its sister chamber.

If the bill clears through the North Carolina House too, it will then require the executive signature to become the state law. Gov. Roy Cooper has already indicated his support for legalizes sports betting.

North Carolina already has retail sports betting at two tribal casinos, which can also have the opportunity to participate in online betting in the future.

Addition of Small Amendment on Wednesday

During Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. Jim Perry added an amendment that clarified the definition of a sporting event facility. According to this, a sports facility “hosts professional sports and has a minimum seating capacity of 17,000 attendants.”

The clarification paves the way for a professional golf tournament to qualify for the sports betting lounge. Under the same clause, stadiums of the Carolina Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Charlotte Hornets, besides six motorsports tracks in the state, also qualify for North Carolina sports betting.

Perry also pushed back the effective date of the sports betting to Jan. 1, 2022.

What Will SB 688 Legalize?

The North Carolina sports betting bill authorizes 10 to 12 online sports betting licenses in the state. The successful operators will each pay a $500,000 initial five-year license fee, and a $100,000 renewal fee.

Old North State will charge an 8% tax on sports wagering revenue.

Professional sports facilities will also be able to establish areas for sports betting on online betting and kiosk devices.

SB 688 empowers the North Carolina Lottery Commission as the regulator, which will also be responsible to award initial licenses to potential operators and suppliers in the market.

North Carolinians can place digital bets or in-person, but exclusively within a half-mile of sports facilities.

How Have We Come Here?

Sen. Jim Perry and Sen. Paul Lowe introduced SB 688 in April, arguing the state should tax an activity already taking place within its jurisdiction.

During the second reading Wednesday, Perry reiterated his stance that prohibition doesn’t work. “We know the sports betting takes place whether we like it or not. We can’t ignore that fact. It’s just not something regulated and taxed by the state,” Perry said.

The bill sat several months awaiting action before swiftly moving through multiple committees earlier this month. Perry said the delay was because the upper chamber had to take care of less controversial issues first.

The supporters of the bill say it could generate between $25 million and $50 million in tax revenue in the future.

North Carolinians can already place legal wagers at the two casinos at two tribal casinos in the state since March 2021. It came nearly two years after Old North State legalized limited in-person sports betting at the two Harrah’s branded casinos owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Caesars rebranded those sportsbooks earlier this month.

What’s Next?

SB 688 now heads to the lower chamber, where among opponents, it has a formidable supporter – Rep. Jason Saine, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

However, the passage of North Carolina sports betting would be more difficult in the House.

Saine, who has been unsuccessful in getting the fantasy sports bill approved in recent years, believes the new chamber formation could bring desirable results this time.

The state legislature doesn’t have a strict prorogation date for the session. If the House approves the sports betting bill, sports betting could be a reality by the end of October, Perry said.

Some conservative and religious groups opposed expanded gambling in North Carolina during Senate committee meetings.

However, as many as 54% of North Carolinians support legalizing sports betting, according to a recent Easter Carolina University poll.

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