On Thursday, the North Carolina Senate approved the state’s sports betting bill – HB 347. It now heads to the House for concurrence of the amended bill. If all goes as planned, it will need Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature after House concurrence, and then sports betting would be legal.
These votes come after the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee lended initial approval of the bill last week and two additional committees voted in favor of it earlier this week.
Overview Of NC Sports Betting Bill
HB 347 legalizes online sports betting in the state, as well as select in-person sports betting options at sports facilities and pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. College sports betting is also allowed.
The North Carolina Education Lottery Commission will tax and license all operators according to language in the bill, which sets the tax rate at 18% and the number of online sports betting licenses allowed at 12. The addition of pari-mutuel wagering, in-person wagering, and the 18% tax rate are all Senate-amended rules.
There are three types of licenses that will be available: an interactive sports wagering license, a service provider license, and a sports wagering supplier license. The interactive sports wagering license will be issued to the operator itself and will cost $1 million at the time of application and $1 million to renew it for five years.
The plan is to have the sports betting market up and running by January 8, 2024.
Private citizen Dennis Justice called on the committee to change this part of the bill in the Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday. He said that a January launch would be “rushing this” and added that it would be “foolish” to set the number of sportsbooks in the state at 12.
Tax Revenue Distribution
The Finance Committee voted to approve an amendment that redirects $1 million of the tax revenue to North Carolina Amateur Sports (NCAS) that was originally intended to go to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.
$2 million of additional tax revenue will go to the Department of Human Health and Human Services for problem gambling programs. Another $1 million is allocated for the North Carolina Youth Outdoor Engagement Commission to assist sports teams with travel expenses and incentive grants for amateur athletes.
Additionally, $300,000 will be distributed to the athletic departments at each of the following universities:
- Appalachian State University
- East Carolina University
- Elizabeth City State University
- Fayetteville State University
- North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- North Carolina Central University
- University of North Carolina at Asheville
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- University of North Carolina at Pembroke
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington
- Western Carolina University
- Winston-Salem State University
Per the fiscal note, whatever is left after the above allocations, will be divided among the colleges listed above (20%), the North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund (30%), and the General Fund (50%).
Opposition Is Present But Not Overwhelming
Some familiar faces showed up at both committee meetings on Tuesday to express their discontent with sports betting in the state. Executive Director of the Christian Action League Reverend Mark Creech, who previously described sports betting as “an expression of recklessness,” pointed to the effects legalization would have on small businesses. In the Senate of Rules and Operations Committee meeting, he compared sports gaming operators to Amazon, arguing that instead of shopping at small businesses, citizens would bet instead.
John Rustin, President of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, is also an established opponent of sports betting in the state. “Theft. Crime. Embezzlement. Job loss. Personal bankruptcy. Substance abuse. Domestic violence. Child Abuse. Divorce. Suicide. This is the human cost of legalized gambling,” Rustin said to the Finance Committee.
Justice also suggested that the committee consider two-factor authentication as a requirement for operators. “Regulate gambling like a business and it will pay like a business. Regulate gambling like a hobby, and it will cost like a hobby.”
Despite these opponents, none of their comments were enough to sway either committee. Both voted unanimously in favor of the bill.