Why The NC Sports Betting Study Bill Sponsor Didn’t Want It To Pass

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NC sports betting

Here’s my bill. Please don’t pass it.

North Carolina Rep. Harry Warren made that unusual request Tuesday in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. He asked the committee to recommend that the Senate not concur with his NC sports betting bill.

The committee obliged, setting it up for Warren’s bill to get a vote of nonconcurrence Wednesday on the Senate floor. The bill would create a North Carolina Gaming Commission and task it with conducting a study on expanding NC sports betting in the state.

The vote will send S 574 to a conference committee where Warren hopes to correct an issue discovered in the bill.

Sponsor hopes committee makes one change

Warren’s noted surprised facial reactions from some judiciary members when he asked them not to concur.

He explained that an amendment on the House floor moved positions related to bingo and boxing from the Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) division without moving over the funding to go with the positions.

The Senate doesn’t have the option of amending a bill during the concurrence process.

Judging by comments made in the Judiciary Committee, it seems unlikely that the bill will get out of conference with just one change. Discussion of the bill went on for about 15 minutes.

Details of NC Gaming Commission bill

Warren’s bill expands the scope of the NC Lottery Commission over current and future gaming activities in the state.

Renamed the North Carolina Gaming Commission, the nine-member body will encompass the lottery, boxing, bingo and raffles.

With the likelihood of the legislature authorizing gambling expansions in coming years, Warren believes it’s important to get ahead of the situation by putting all gaming regulatory concerns under one roof.

To illustrate the need, he points to efforts to authorize daily fantasy sports last year and then put it under the purview of the Secretary of State.

“I think where we are in the evolution of gaming in North Carolina is that – just for the matter of efficiency for improving oversight and regulation – it’s incumbent upon us to establish one entity for all of these activities to be under,” Warren said.

Senate concerns expressed in Judiciary

Sen. Warren Daniel, the co-chair of the committee, expressed that he felt the bill needed more thorough vetting in the Senate.

Fearing there wasn’t enough time to go through the Senate process before adjournment, Warren found a bill that had already passed the Senate but was made irrelevant when the companion House bill reached the governor’s desk.

He gutted the bill, filled it out with the Gaming Commission language, and the House sent it back to the Senate for concurrence. The language never went through a Senate Committee until Tuesday, though Warren pointed out that it went through the House Commerce, Judiciary, Finance and Rules committees before passing with bipartisan support.

Still, Daniel wants the Senate to take a further look at the bill next year and indicated he would have motioned for nonconcurrence, regardless of Warren’s request.

“I appreciate all the esteemed committees it went through in the House, but I really think an earth-shattering bill like this that changes the way gaming is going to be approached in our state should never come over in a bill for us to just concur in terms of process when we’re here just trying to close out the session,” Daniel said. “I think it’s something we should probably continue to look at in 2020.”

Other concerns that might come up

Daniel seems to have issues with gambling expansion in general, with the belief that this bill sets a precedent that it is coming. He suggested that the commission have a social scientist to “study how much people divert their rent or food or clothes money to gambling activities.”

He seems to be referring to the NC sports betting study here: “I have a lot of concerns about where this bill is heading us towards, and I’m not one of these people who thinks just because two or three states around us has done something that we ought to do it too.”

Of course, North Carolina already became one of seven states this year to authorize sports betting, but only at its two tribal casinos.

Although he did not attend, it was noted that Sen. Majority Whip Jerry Tillman expressed concerns about rolling lottery into one entity rather than having two separate commissions.

“If we just expand the scope of the Lottery Commission, we get to maintain the members there and all the institutional knowledge and experience they have with what we’ve been doing with gaming in NC,” Warren responded. “So, it’s an easier and smoother transition to expand that scope of responsibility under these nine members.”

Sen. Ralph Hise asked for the conference committee to address possible conflicts of interest in that the Lottery Commission would now be regulating gaming when it is the largest advertiser in the state.

Lawmaker hopes for passage next week

Warren expects the conference committee to begin next week. He hopes for a quick conference and immediate passage so that the commission can get the sports betting study underway to meet the February and April deadlines in the bill.

“Time is of the essence,” Warren said. “My desire is that as soon as the conferees are reported, we set up a time to meet, perfect the bill, get it sent to each chamber for approval and then sent to the governor.”

The issues met by the bill in the Senate haven’t ruined his optimism.

“I’m very confident it gets through in the next five to seven days,” Warren said.

The Senate is getting an extended look at the bill after all.

“This gives the Senate more time to review the bill over the next few days, and if there (are) any concerns they can refer to them to their conferees and we can address them,” Warren said. “Hopefully that addresses Sen. Daniel’s concerns about vetting.”