North Carolina House Committee Passes Sports Betting Bills, Paving the Way for Legalization

On Tuesday, the North Carolina House Judiciary 1 Committee approved two sports betting bills that moved the state closer to legalization. The two companion bills were required to pass through the House by June 30 if the state is to legalize statewide mobile sports wagering this year. North Carolina sports fans can start to get excited as this is a significant milestone towards an eventual full-scale launch.

What Do the Bills Entail?

After passing in a divided Senate last year, SB 688 was passed in the House on Tuesday. SB 688 sets the baseline for sports betting and sees the state authorize up to 12 mobile sportsbooks. However, SB 38 was passed with significant amendments to the original sports betting legislation.

SB 38 includes a 14% privilege tax on gross gaming revenue, an increase from the 8% rate in the original bill. The original bill proposed an 8% tax rate. Operators will also be required to pay a $1 million application fee and a $1 million fee for license renewals, increased from $500,000.

Another amendment set on Tuesday would send $2 million in tax revenue to the Department of Health and Human Services for gambling addicition funds. The original SB 688 only allocated $1 million annually. In addition, SB 38 outlines which entities may apply for sports betting licenses, including sports facilities across NASCAR, PGA, and other professional sports leagues.

Mixed Reviews from Legislators

While the bills passed through the committee, some members were less bullish on the prospects of legal sports betting in their state. Rep. Abe Jones expressed his belief that North Carolina shouldn’t “approve gambling because Tennessee and Virginia do it,” as it goes against the state’s values and is “wrong.”

Rep. Pricey Harrison mentioned the “opportunity for corruption” as a troubling aspect of the industry, although he successfully added an amendment to SB 38 to remove wagering on amateur sports. Collegiate sports will still be included in the market.

Even a WRAL News poll released in April showed that only 52% of respondents supported the legalization of online sports betting. Spectrum News showed that of registered voters, 36% support legalization, 39% oppose it, and 25% don’t know.

Future Looks Bright in North Carolina

Before the two bills can hit the chamber floor, they must pass through two more House committees. SB 688 has been passed by the Senate, so it only needs final approval in the House, but SB 38 is amended, so it will need to be approved by both chambers.

One industry source told Legal Sports Report that there is a “60% chance this all gets done within the next 10 days,” although a different source said that the bills should be fully passed if they were heard in committee.

If legislators can finalize the bills and send them to Governor Ray Cooper, he is expected to sign them as he has expressed past support. In July 2021, Cooper expressed his belief that “it’s very difficult for law enforcement to stop [online sports betting], so we might as well control it and get the revenue from it.”

Sports betting won’t launch until January 1, 2023, at the earliest, according to amendments to SB 38. The original goal had been to launch by this fall, but it has typically taken 5-6 months for a state to go from legalization to launch. We’ll have you covered with more news in the coming weeks as the future of sports betting in North Carolina becomes more clear.