A bill to legalize and regulate sports betting in North Carolina passed the House earlier this spring. However, the Senate made changes to the bill that could create roadblocks with the House, which could delay final billing. The Senate changes included making it easier for adults to place face-to-face bets and adding horse racing to the list of betting options. The tax rate on income generated by legalized sportsbooks was also raised.
Democratic Governor Roy Cooper supports the sports betting law, but the House bill’s lead proponent declined to comment on the Senate’s changes. The Senate version of the bill still needs to go through two committees and a vote on the floor before becoming law.
Supporters of sports legalization believe that legalizing and taxing gambling is better than allowing it to continue as underground and online workarounds. Currently, only three casinos operated by two tribes of American Indians allow legal sports betting in North Carolina.
The Senate proposal would direct the North Carolina Lottery Commission to issue up to 12 interactive sports betting licenses to individuals who pass rigorous background checks and pay a $1 million application fee. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill would allow betting on professional, collegiate, and Olympic-type sports events.
The House proposal allows bets to be placed by players with accounts, while the Senate bill would allow individuals over 21 years old to place real money bets at betting windows in arenas and stadiums without creating an account. The Senate also proposed an 18% tax that omitted certain deductions for managers, with much of the tax revenue going towards local, regional, and state athletic initiatives and gambling problem programs.
North Carolina is the ninth-largest state in the US and is attractive to financially profitable betting operators and professional sports franchises. While Christian conservatives and liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives voted down a sports betting bill last year, gambling-related interests have been more successful this year.
Anti-gambling forces continued to speak out at Wednesday’s committee meeting. They believe that legalizing sports betting could lead to tens of thousands of North Carolina residents and their families falling prey to gambling addiction.