After legalization efforts died this month in Minnesota and Missouri, state legislators reignited their push for online NC sports betting this week.
The North Caroline Senate Commerce & Insurance Committee advanced online sports betting bill HB 347 by voice vote Wednesday after the legislation sat motionless since passing the House in March. Lawmakers amended the bill, raising the tax rate and adding a potentially problematic horse racing piece.
Multiple industry sources remain optimistic North Carolina sports betting legislation can pass before the legislature adjourns in late June. The bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee next Tuesday before hitting the floor, likely later next week.
NC sports betting amendments
The House passed HB 347 without any changes, despite multiple proposed amendments throughout its journey this spring. Legislators also raised the sports betting revenue tax rate from 14% to 18%, as well as an addition to prohibit promotional deductions.
On Wednesday, lawmakers also added an amendment to legalize online horse racing. There is also language in the bill allowing live horse racing and historical horse racing (HHR) if a track is built in North Carolina.
Proponents planned for minor changes in the Senate, according to Ches McDowell, a lobbyist working for NC professional sports teams. However, the live and historical horse racing items are opposed by the state tribes, which have casino gaming exclusivity. They could be a hurdle for passage and will likely come out of the bill, according to multiple industry sources.
Base proposal remains intact
The proposal from Rep. Jason Saine would legalize 10 to 12 online sports betting operators in North Carolina.
North Carolina professional sports teams and organizations could also open in-person sportsbooks. There are already three in-person sportsbooks at tribal casinos in the state.
The House bill this year is nearly identical to the bill that began in the Senate last session and failed by one vote in the House. Gov. Roy Cooper has signified he will sign sports betting legislation if it reaches his desk.
More gaming expansion coming in NC?
Gaming is a major topic of conversation for lawmakers this session. A bill in the House would legalize and regulate video gambling machines in North Carolina.
Legislators have also discussed allowing commercial casinos in North Carolina as new casinos near the Virginia border pop up. The issues will likely be kept separate to ensure a smoother path for NC sports betting, according to an industry source.
“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.”