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North Carolina sports betting might be showing up late in the game, but the new bill’s sponsor expects it to reach the finish line.
State Sen. Jim Davis tells Legal Sports Report that S 154, introduced Wednesday, should be passed by the Senate within the month. He doesn’t anticipate it being a challenge to get the legal sports betting bill signed into law by June.
The bill specifies that NC sports betting is defined as wagers on the outcome of professional and collegiate sports. It does not include any provisions for mobile sports betting.
The legislation, which is basically a shell at this point, would add sports wagering to the Class III games that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is allowed to offer. The tribe operates two casinos: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel.
The tribe asked Davis, whose district includes Harrah’s Cherokee, for the legislature to add sports betting to its list of permissible games.
In his nine years in office, Davis got two previous gambling expansions passed at the request of the tribe. They included allowing table games and permitting the construction of a second and third casino in the state (the tribe hasn’t acted on the third yet.)
“The Eastern Band are wanting to get into sports wagering, and wagering is legal now after the Supreme Court decision of May of last year overturning PASPA. It’s a legal enterprise and they want to expand to include wagering in my district, so I consented to file the bill and don’t expect it to have any problems getting passed.”
Although it is not yet specified in the legislation, Davis indicated that his bill will not allow for a mobile app or online wagering to allow people to place bets from around the state.
The tribe is only interested in having sports betting in-person at its casinos. That syncs with tribal requests from other states across the country.
“I’m in favor of restricting it, and that’s why my bill will not allow an app,” Davis said. “The Eastern Band came to me with this proposal, and that’s what they wanted. They’re not interested in expanding it at this time, and probably have no interest in expanding in the future.”
The legislation limits NC sports betting to the tribal casinos. The only other gambling stakeholder in the state is the NC Education Lottery.
“I have no idea if the lottery is interested in offering sports betting, but I find it highly unlikely to be expanded to include the lottery,” Davis said. “North Carolina is not set up to do that. I think it would be a lot more difficult to regulate.”
North Carolina was the last in the South to approve a lottery in 2005.
“I don’t think including the lottery would pass with the present makeup of legislature,” Davis said.
Even though North Carolina is a relatively conservative on gambling issues and didn’t get involved in the sports betting push until late – it’s the 30th state to introduce a bill this year – Davis doesn’t expect the bill to face much resistance in the legislature.
He noted that he had no trouble getting the two previous gambling expansions approved for the tribe, and this should be no different.
“I know some people won’t vote for it because they have moral objections to wagering, but I don’t think it will be many. I’m not a fan of it myself, but it’s a legal enterprise and people aren’t forced to do it, so the Libertarian in me says to have at it.
“You’re not going to unring that bell because they already have casinos. This is just a small addendum to what they’re already doing.”
While both legislative chambers are majority Republican with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, Davis said he didn’t expect there to be any issue getting the governor’s signature.
Davis noted that Rep. Kevin Corbin, whose district also includes Cherokee, will soon introduce a companion bill in his chamber.
The Senate bill will start off in the Rules Committee, though Davis expects the meat of the bill will be filled in by the Finance Committee, of which he is a member.
He expects the Senate will pass the North Carolina sports betting bill in March, and then the House will take it up. He anticipates the House being the more challenging passage.
The North Carolina General Assembly is expected to meet until the end of June to finish a budget for the next fiscal period that begins in July. It could go into July if the budget process takes longer.