‘Greased’ Online NC Sports Betting Bill Faces Final Senate Vote Thursday

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NC sports betting

There is plenty of daylight ahead of online NC sports betting legislation heading into its final stretch this session.

The Senate voted 38-11 in favor of online North Carolina sports betting bill HB 347 during a second reading roll call vote Wednesday afternoon, advancing the legislation to a third and final reading Thursday. Should the Senate move HB 347 forward, it will need House concurrence on multiple amendments added since the lower chamber passed the original proposal, 64-45, in March.

The session ends later this month. If sports betting passes, the law would take effect Jan. 8, 2024, and regulators would need to set a launch within 12 months of that date.

Can online NC sports betting make it?

This year’s initial House passage cleared one existing hurdle. Last session, sports betting legislation from the Senate fell a vote short in the chamber. Multiple industry sources have remained optimistic about North Carolina’s chances all session.

Several sources also told LSR another hurdle was removed Tuesday when a committee stripped historical horse racing (HHR) out of the bill. Despite a jump in tax rate and the inclusion of horse racing, industry proponents appear happy with the direction of the legislation.

“It’s pretty well greased,” a source told LSR Wednesday about the HB 347’s ability to cross the finish line.

House appears on board with Senate changes

While there are several changes from the original House language, sponsor Rep. Jason Saine told WRAL this week representatives are tracking the alterations, and they should not be a problem.

“The Senate has had a thoughtful process and have been good partners in seeing this legislation through,” Saine said. “I think their good-faith efforts are greatly appreciated by sponsors and supporters of the bill in the House.”

A House concurrence would send HB 347 to Gov. Roy Cooper, who has indicated he would sign a sports betting bill. If the House does not agree to the amendments, a conference committee would need to settle differences before the session ends.

Carolina bill not without detractors

During Wednesday’s brief Senate floor session, where sports betting was the only agenda item, there were a few legislators who spoke out against the issue. The lawmakers said the framework allows the industry to exploit the state.

Sen. Jim Burgin asked why the state could not just tax illegal bets in the state and said customer money could be better spent elsewhere. Sen. Julie Mayfield compared sports betting to addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine and opioids.

Despite the opposition, Senate leadership moved quickly into a vote to approve the legislation.

NC sports betting bill basics

The framework of the NC sports betting bill is nearly identical to the proposal that nearly succeeded last year. HB 347 would legalize up to 12 online sportsbooks in North Carolina. 

Legislators raised the tax rate this session from 14% to 18%. An amendment also prohibits promotional deductions on sports betting revenue.

The bill also allows for in-person sportsbooks at eight professional sports venues in the state. In-person sports betting is already legal at three tribal casinos in the state.

In-state partners limited

The eight facilities eligible for in-person sportsbook licenses are:

Those venues can partner with online operators, and the North Carolina Education Lottery is instructed to consider an applicant’s plans for in-person interaction with customers. The eight locations potentially leave four licenses available to untethered sportsbooks.

North Carolina tax projections

Legislative fiscal analysis on HB 347 suggests tax revenue of $10 million in the first year. That is expected to rise to $100.6 million in the fifth year. 

LSR forecasts NC sports betting handle could reach $6.8 billion by year two with sports betting revenue of $610.7 million.

North Carolina’s population of 10.6 million is about 2 million more people than neighboring Virginia. In 2022, sportsbooks in Virginia took $4.9 billion in wagers for $481 million in revenue.