It is all quiet when it comes to online NC sports betting legislation, but proponents are still bullish on its chances to pass this year.
The North Carolina House passed HB 347 last month, 64-45, setting up a path for legalization through the Senate, which advanced NC sports betting legislation last year. The 2022 bill failed by one vote in the House.
While the legislation has not moved since House passage in late March, multiple sources tell LSR the 2023 version still has legs. If sports betting legislation stalls out this session, legislators can continue its life during the 2024 session. There is no definitive end date for the 2023 legislative session.
“We expect a few changes that didn’t make it in time in the House,” said Ches McDowell, a lobbyist working for NC professional sports teams. “I don’t think it will be an issue there.”
What’s the holdup in NC?
North Carolina lawmakers have focused on other issues recently, including legislation that would eliminate tenure at the University of North Carolina system and multiple anti-transgender bills. The General Assembly also held its spring break earlier this month.
“I expect Senate action in the next couple of weeks,” one source told LSR this month. “They’re in no rush … and, in my opinion, they’ll probably take it all the way up to the end.”
McDowell said there is not a clear timeline for passage. HB 347 survived unchanged in the House despite 17 proposed amendments, but amendments in the Senate would send it back for another vote in the House before heading to Gov. Roy Cooper, a sports betting proponent.
Will casino talk derail sports betting?
Multiple NC legislators want to discuss casino gaming expansion in the state, according to WRAL. There are three tribal casinos in North Carolina who offer in-person sports betting, but the new proposal would allow commercial entities to open casinos. The expansion could also include sports betting.
The discussion comes as several casinos are in development near the Virginia-North Carolina border. Some politicians worry those could leak revenue from North Carolina and see it as a potential opportunity for the state.
“I think the casino discussion in NC is throwing a wrinkle into the sports betting bill that I didn’t see coming,” an industry source told LSR this month. “Sounds like Senate leadership is at least open to listening.”
Political group Greater Carolina is leading the charge, according to WRAL. Great Carolina worked with Spectrum Gaming Group on a study, which estimates the three casinos could generate $1.6 billion in Anson, Nash and Rockingham counties. The potential proposal would also legalize video lottery terminals in North Carolina.
Sports betting sponsor believes room for both
Rep. Jason Saine, the lead House sponsor on sports betting, told WUNC Politics Podcast the attitude on casinos is changing in North Carolina. He does not believe the issues are at odds.
“I do think we’ll see something out of the Senate to that effect,” Saine told WUNC regarding potential gaming expansion. “I’ve been with those folks and we’ve talked about it. It may be the year for that as well.”
Strong push for NC sports betting
Heading into the session, proponents were excited about the prospect of building on the effort that failed by one vote in the 2021-22 sessions. The bill introduced in the House mirrors the effort that came up short and started in the NC Senate in 2021.
The bill moved quickly through three House committees and the House floor before slowing down in the Senate. The legislation would create 10 to 12 online sports betting licenses and a 14% tax on online sports betting revenue.
Professional sports teams in North Carolina back the legislation. Cooper also included $85 million in sports betting tax revenue in the two-year budget.