The state Senate likely will not concur with a bill to establish a North Carolina Gaming Commission and task it with studying sports betting.
Sen. Jim Davis expects the NC sports betting bill to go to conference, where he thinks it will need to undergo “significant modification” in order to pass.
After withdrawing S 574 from the floor agenda Tuesday for the fourth consecutive time it was scheduled, Senate Republicans discussed the legislation in caucus and determined that they had concerns that prevented them from concurring. The bill was re-referred to the Judiciary Committee.
NC sports betting became legal last week when Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill authorizing sportsbooks at two tribal properties.
Changes aplenty for second NC sports betting bill
The Senate already passed S 574, sponsored by Davis, when it related to modifying the definition of physical therapy. Its companion legislation in the House went the distance, leaving it irrelevant.
In a deal between Davis and Rep. Harry Warren, that bill was gutted and filled in with language from Warren’s H 929 to try to expedite it through the Senate at the end of the session.
“It made sense for the Senate to take some time on this since they hadn’t vetted it before, but it doesn’t seem like it should be that controversial to me,” Warren said. “It’s just part of the process. I’m disappointed but not upset.”
House sponsor not getting what he bargained for
Warren and Davis agreed to support each other’s sports betting deals in the other chamber.
House leaders held up Davis’ bill to add legal sports betting to the Class III games permitted at two Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians casinos in his district. They question if Warren’s proposed sports betting study should take place first.
The study would look into how North Carolina could expand sports betting statewide and what impacts it would have on citizens and the tribal casinos.
Davis said he would have motioned for concurrence if S 574 ever came up while on the floor, but that never happened.
Concerns for the bill are not about sports betting
Davis declined to repeat the concerns for the bill mentioned in caucus. Warren said his understanding is the Senate is concerned that some of the provisions of the NC sports betting bill are in conflict with the chamber’s budget. He finds that confusing because it isn’t an appropriations bill that involves any revenue.
He suspects that concerns may center on moving the Alcohol Law Enforcement Branch of the Department of Public Safety under the Gaming Commission.
“I’m anxious to hear what the problems are. It’s really a simple bill, creating one commission for more efficient oversight of gaming and charging it with doing a study. The bill was vetted through four committees in the House before we passed it with a veto-proof majority. If anything was wrong with the bill, our committees would have found it.”
He’s confident that the sports betting study will stay in the bill.
“It’s simply a study, and it’s a very sensible thing to do to conduct a study before submitting a bill to expand sports betting in the state,” Warren said. “We need to know what the impacts will be before we can make an informed decision to pass legislation to authorize it if that’s indeed what a study would recommend.”
Timing is tight for study deadline
Ironically, Warren hoped to expedite the Gaming Commission bill by putting the language on legislation that would only need concurrence in the Senate.
Circumventing the Senate Committee process seems to have backfired. He believes he could have quelled Senate concerns if he had presented the bill at a Senate committee and answered questions.
The Senate doesn’t have the option of amending a bill it already passed. It can only concur or not concur.
Warren expects a vote not to concur early this week. He hopes the conference process moves quickly because the sports betting study needs to get underway. The bill establishes that initial findings are due February 2020. First, the Gaming Commission needs to be created and filled.
“Come on guys,” Warren said, “there’s a deadline to meet for reports coming back from the study, so we need to move it.”