Carolina Blues: NC Sports Betting Bill Falls Short After Late Surge

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NC sports betting

Following a slow start in the 2022 legislative session, a mobile North Carolina sports betting effort hit top speed this week before fizzling out suddenly Wednesday evening.

After flying through three committees in less than 24 hours, the North Carolina House held a hotly contested hearing on two sports betting bills. Representatives ultimately killed Senate Bill 688, the platform bill that ultimately set up mobile sports betting in North Carolina, by a 51-50 second reading vote. A 59-44 reconsideration vote to send it back to the Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee failed shortly after that.

The House advanced companion bill SB 38 in its second reading Wednesday. Without SB 688, though, NC sports betting is effectively dead for 2022.

SB 688 passed the Senate and its first House committee in 2021. Before this week’s rush of activity, the legislation sat quietly for the first few weeks of the 2022 session despite early optimism from proponents.

Opposition steps up in NC

Despite an apparent deal among legislatures and seeming momentum in the House, there were several lengthy speeches against the legislation on the House floor. One of the opponents, Rep. Larry Pittman, effectively equated sports betting to monetizing human trafficking.

“What’s Jesus think of these two bills?” Pittman later asked the floor. “He’s very clear and I’m going to be on his side.”

Rep. Abe Jones expressed his displeasure with the bill based on the values his father instilled in him. Jones also said sports betting could lead to prostitution and exploitation.

Rep. Pricey Harrison was the most vocal on the floor, telling her colleagues repeatedly that the issue is not good for North Carolina. Rep. Marcia Morey said the legislation feels rushed for a business where consumers lose money.

Bizzare 24 hours for NC sports betting

Along with the House floor votes, the two bills received three positive committee votes in less than 24 hours. Earlier this week, Sen. Michael Garrett told Fox 8 WGHP that sports betting was part of a larger negotiation between the NC House and Senate.

SB 688 sponsor Sen. Jim Perry told committees this week that feedback from both chambers and the governor’s office led to the new trailer bill, SB 38, that increases the financial impact for the state.

House sponsor Rep. Jason Saine said on the floor Wednesday that the two bills are in concurrence and would require both to pass to receive Gov. Roy Cooper‘s signature. Cooper previously told the media he supports the legislation.

NC sports betting proposal

SB 688 would have created 10 to 12 online sports betting licenses. The legislation allowed for sports betting lounges at NC professional sports venues.

NC lawmakers introduced a substitute for the unrelated SB 38 this week to make changes to the financial aspects of the sports betting legislation.

SB 38 increases the sports betting revenue tax rate from 8% in the original bill to 14% and raises the sports betting license fee from $500,000 to $1 million.

Amendments aplenty

On the House floor, lawmakers made several amendments to SB 38, most of which were technical. Legislators also adopted an amendment that bans betting on North Carolina college sports, which would likely greatly limit sports betting revenue in a state that loves collegiate athletics.

During the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, bill sponsors introduced an amendment that alters what the sports betting funds benefit. The amendment decreases the percentage of sports betting proceeds heading to a new Major Events, Games and Attraction Fund from 50% to 30%. That adjustment keeps the legislation in line with the tax rate increase.

The committee also distributes 10% to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in North Carolina, as well as the University of North Carolina – Asheville and UNC – Pembroke. Lawmakers amended the bill’s sunset period for promotional credits from five years to three years.

North Carolina sports betting landscape

There are two tribal-owned Harrah’s casinos in western North Carolina that feature retail Caesars Sportsbooks.

North Carolina touches two states with sports betting: Tennessee and Virginia.

Mobile sports betting, however, will need to wait in North Carolina.