An effort to expand sports betting statewide through the lottery could doom efforts in North Carolina, warns the Senate sponsor.
Sen. Jim Davis got S 154 passed in the Senate last week. It’s an NC sports betting bill that authorizes wagering at two casinos on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reservation in his district.
The bill now moves to the House, where Davis sees a potential obstacle.
“I’ve heard that there could be a push in the House to expand sports betting statewide with the lottery,” Davis said. “No one has spoken in the Senate that they wanted to open it up statewide.
“If that is offered as an amendment in the House, I think that will be the death knell of the bill so I don’t anticipate it happening.”
NC typically moves slowly on gambling
North Carolina has minimal gaming compared to most states. The only legal gambling within its borders are the two casinos on tribal land and the lottery, and North Carolina was the last state in the South to approve a lottery in 2005.
Given that reluctance to expand legal gambling options, it’s impressive that NC sports betting passed by a 42-7 vote in the Senate.
Davis says the success was due to the limited scope of the bill, which simply adds sports betting and parimutuel wagering to the Class III games permitted at the Indian casinos.
“It actually passed by a larger margin than I anticipated,” Davis said. “I think we educated the people as to what the bill does, that it’s not a statewide issue. It takes place on the Eastern Band tribal lands and they’re a sovereign nation. Some people may have been worried that this would open up to statewide, and that was not the scope of this bill.”
NC sports betting specifics not in bill
Davis’ bill does not set up a tax rate, regulations or consumer protections specific to NC sports betting. The senator believes those issues are covered under the current compact between the state and Eastern Band.
“I presume that would all be addressed with present law,” Davis said. “If the law needs to be expanded, we’ll have to work on that. I’m not aware of any additional law that will be required because of this addition.”
The compact includes:
- No person under the age of 21 may purchase a gaming ticket or otherwise participate in any Class III game.
- No Class III game may be played by a player who uses a credit card rather than currency or coin to participate in the game.
- A monthly payment to all Local School Administrative Units and Charter schools within the state on a sliding scale that currently sits at 5 percent of gross revenue, specifically for live table gaming. It increases periodically, reaching 8 percent for the last 10 years of the 30-year compact.
Leagues strike out
Though there is no tax rate in the bill, Davis noted that didn’t stop sports leagues in North Carolina from showing up at committee hearings to request an integrity fee.
“I heard there were some sports teams in North Carolina that were interested in levying an integrity tax to ensure that sports wagering was on the up and up,” Davis said. “That just seems to me to be an additional potential revenue source for the sports team owners.”
Path forward for NC sports betting
A companion bill to the one passed by the Senate, H 302, sits in the House. Since the Senate bill crossed over first, Davis indicated that he expects the House sponsors, including Rep. Howard Hunter and Rep. Kevin Corbin, to usher S 154 through the committee process and on to the House floor.
The House is still introducing its own bills until April 23 and has a deadline to pass bills to the Senate by May 9. Davis expects it will be sometime in May before the House takes up bills that crossed over from the Senate.
The NC legislative session will end in late June or early in July.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a problem in the House,” Davis said. “There will be a few people who vote against it on supposed moral issues, but it’s a legal enterprise. The feds deemed it legal, so it’s up to the states to affirm that.”