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A state lawmaker wanted to create a state gaming commission and task it with conducting a study on the feasibility and impact of expanding NC sports betting.
Instead of handling the study, the gaming commission will be part of it.
At least for now, a conference committee thwarted Rep. Harry Warren’s quest to convert the North Carolina Lottery Commission into an NC Gaming Commission, moving all existing and future gambling activities under one commission.
After the change was made at the request of Senate legislators, S 574 passed by a vote of 44-1 in the Senate on Wednesday night and 97-12 in the House on Thursday. The bill heads to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper.
Warren hoped the conference committee would make only one change to the legislation when he asked for a vote of non-concurrence on his own bill. That always seemed like wishful thinking.
The Senate received the bill coldly from the moment it came over. At first, it seemed the Senate just needed time to get past that the bill didn’t go through the typical vetting process.
With the legislative session coming to an end and tight deadlines to meet on the study, Warren tried to circumvent having the legislation start in Senate committees by moving the language on to a dead bill that had already passed the Senate.
This way, all the Senate needed to do was concur. That never happened.
“In politics, you do what you can do and not what you’d like to do,” Warren said. “We will have the recommendations of the Lottery Commission study to proceed on rather than just a legislative action.”
North Carolina did pass legislation this year to allow for sports betting at the state’s two tribal casinos.
The study figures to look at the possible impacts of taking NC sports betting statewide through mobile wagering, including with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
It’s an encouraging sign for the potential of mobile sports betting eventually coming to North Carolina that a bill centered on studying the idea passed by such overwhelming margins with bipartisan support.
Without concerns about the creation of a gaming commission, the bill picked up eight votes in the House compared to its original passage.
“Given the expansion of gambling nationwide on a state-by-state basis since the Supreme Court decision, I would think the study will come back with the determination that sports betting would yield a revenue stream for the state,” Warren said.
The conference committee substitute outlined what the legislature wants in an examination of NC sports betting:
The Lottery Commission is tasked with contracting an independent third party to conduct research for the study. Findings and recommendations, along with any proposed legislation, are due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee by April 15, 2020.
Examining whether any additional resources might be needed to help those with gambling addictions is another new clause to the study from the conference committee.
Warren is less sure about what the study will indicate regarding the need for a gaming commission, but he’s optimistic it will once again be a topic in the legislature next year.
“The door is cracked,” Warren said. “Now we’ve got people talking about it rather than just the three or four bill sponsors. The idea is being accepted, looked at, studied. We knocked it up to phase three, I’d say.
“I’m not disappointed at all. When the study comes back, we’ll work on the recommendations. In the meantime, I’ll look for another windmill to kick.”