An online North Carolina sports betting bill advanced through three House committees in two days this week en route to a likely floor vote next week.
Rep. Jason Saine guided HB 347 through the committees and expects the bill to receive a chamber vote to advance it to the Senate next week. The Commerce Committee advanced the bill Tuesday, 17-10, while on Wednesday, the Finance Committee recommended it favorably by a voice vote, and the Judiciary Committee passed the legislation, 7-3.
NC sports betting legislation passed the Senate last year but failed by one vote in the House. Industry sources are optimistic about the House vote but say any passage likely will be by a slim margin.
Saine’s bill has 56 bipartisan sponsors, and Gov. Roy Cooper also supports the legislation and included sports betting in his budget. Through the three committees this week, the bill survived any amendments that could cost support, including one that killed the legislation last year.
Amendments dodged in North Carolina
Last year, an amendment prohibiting college sports betting in North Carolina contributed to the bill’s failure. Saine and other proponents told committees this week that a ban on college betting would push action to the black market and other states.
Rep. John Autry proposed a similar amendment during Tuesday’s Commerce Committee meeting. The amendment failed, 19-7, as did a second attempt from Rep. Pricey Harrison during Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Commerce Committee also voted against, 18-8, an amendment from Rep. Deb Butler prohibiting credit card usage for sports betting.
Sports betting advertising gets targeted in North Carolina
Harrison proposed several amendments aimed at cutting down the sports betting bill. She cited last year’s New York Times series highlighting gambling issues nationwide.
“Our state is better than this,” Harrison said during the Judiciary Committee hearing.
One of the amendments aimed at explicitly prohibiting sports betting advertising on college campuses. The amendment failed by voice vote after Saine explained he does not want to tell colleges how to do business.
North Carolina dissenters stand up
Along with Harrison’s stand in the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Abe Jones spoke at length against the issue. While he accepts it will pass this year, Jones is unhappy about it.
He called sports betting a predatory vice like dog fighting and prostitution, and a regressive industry. Jones said loan sharks and prostitutes will follow the gambling.
“I know the train is on the track. I admire the efficiency and effectiveness of the people who put this through; they have done a splendid job,” Jones said Wednesday. “I hope this will help our state more than it hurts. The question is not whether they will gamble, but the question is if the state should endorse and embrace it?”
Sports betting tax a sticking point
The 2023 legislation carries a 14% tax on sports betting revenue, which was settled on in a trailer bill last year to change the original 8% tax on the main bill.
“Through our efforts and conversations, we’ve settled on a higher number,” Saine said in Wednesday’s Finance Committee.
Still, there was an attempt in the Finance Committee by Rep. Tim Longest to raise the tax to more than 50%, similar to the rates found in New York and New Hampshire. The tax amendment failed by voice vote.
Concerted sports betting effort in North Carolina
Industry sources were optimistic about last year’s attempt in North Carolina. The optimism returns in 2023, but with even more collaboration.
Sportsbooks were late to the game in supporting the 2022 legislation, coming in after the session had already ended. This year, along with the NC professional sports teams, multiple sports betting industry representatives are on the ground.
Throughout this week’s committees, Saine touted consensus agreements featured in the legislation in hopes of convincing any additional supporters.
North Carolina sports betting bill details
The legislation would create 10 to 12 online sports betting licenses in North Carolina, each carrying a $1 million fee.
Cooper’s two-year budget includes $85 million in tax revenue from sports betting. Saine explained to the committees that money is escaping to neighboring states with legalized sports betting, like Tennessee and Virginia.
“A lot of people this time are not taking anything for granted,” Cooper said last week, per WRAL. “I think as a lot of lobbying occurred early, people got positive responses from legislators, and they didn’t do the things they needed to do to close. I think this time, nobody is taking anything for granted.”
In-person sports betting is already legal at tribal casinos in North Carolina. Two in-person sportsbooks opened in March 2021 at casinos owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, while the Catawba Nation opened a sportsbook in September 2022.