The representative shepherding a NC sports betting bill through the House said it is likely done moving this year.
The House Commerce Committee passed SB 688, 12-4 on Nov. 4, following a discussion Rep. Jason Saine said was to make sure representatives know mobile sports betting is a looming issue. The North Carolina Assembly is finishing up the business that has kept it in session longer than usual, so Saine does not expect any more action on the North Carolina sports betting bill this year.
“We’re winding down, but it’s eligible for when we come back in April,” Saine told LSR. “We have some extra time between now and then and I want people thinking about it, but I am pretty sure that’s the only hearing we’ll get in. It has to go to three more committees, that’s three more chances for discussion.”
Few changes likely to NC sports betting bill
Saine said his goal was to make sure NC sports betting is at the forefront of legislators’ minds when they return next year. Introduced in April 2021 by Senators Jim Perry and Paul Lowe, the bill earned Senate approval in August.
“I want people to understand the implication, I don’t like when bills come out and there’s opposition to something that’s a false narrative,” Saine said. “It gave people opposed to it a chance to speak out and for us to find out why they’re opposed. Some concerns are valid, some not as valid.”
The bill legalizes mobile sports betting in NC and creates licenses for 10 to 12 online operators. The state would tax sports betting revenue at 8%.
“I don’t envision it changing. We have agreement in the Senate, so we’d have to send it back,” Saine said. “I’m always open if someone has a better idea. I haven’t heard any better ideas.”
Sports betting appears to have the votes
The relative lack of opposition and an overwhelming approval in the Commerce Committee surprised even Saine.
“It was a bipartisan vote and the opposition was bipartisan, but quite frankly, I thought it was better than maybe I anticipated,” he said. “We work hard to socialize it with members, so no one should have been shocked when this came up.”
Lobbyist Ches McDowell spoke at the Commerce Committee hearing and previously told LSR he believes the votes are there in North Carolina to legalize mobile sports betting.
While Saine does not expect the passage until next year, he did say the legislature is “better than Disneyworld,” and anything is possible.
“I’ve been here long enough to expect the unexpected,” Saine said when asked if the bill could slip through this year.
Already happening in North Carolina
Saine said he wants to legalize NC sports betting to ensure protection for consumers.
He said there are 2 million North Carolinians betting illegally online.
Sports betting is also legal at retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos. Two casinos owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened sportsbooks earlier this year.