North Carolina is edging closer to legalizing online sports betting after legislation to allow such gambling through the internet garnered backing this week in two House committees.
Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) proposed House Bill 347 earlier this month, and it was co-sponsored by a Republican and two Democrats. The bipartisan measure aims to authorize and regulate online wagering on professional and college sports in the Tar Heel State, as well as offering in-person betting in or near certain professional sports venues.
HB 347 has swiftly passed through the House Commerce Standing Committee, the House Finance and Judiciary committees, and is now set to move to the full House floor for further consideration. It is anticipated that a vote on the bill will take place next week.
Currently, sports betting in North Carolina is only permitted in-person at the state’s three tribal casinos – Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, and Catawba Two Kings Casino. However, these are located in a more remote and less-populated mountainous region, and Two Kings is still around 40 minutes from downtown Charlotte.
Supporters of the bill stress that online sports betting is already active in the state through illegal offshore websites, and the introduction of legal online betting would make it much more convenient. North Carolina is a highly-sporting state, with the University of North Carolina, Duke University, North Carolina State University, Wake Forest University, the NFL Carolina Panthers, NBA Charlotte Hornets, and NHL Carolina Panthers all based there.
Legislative fiscal experts predict that allowing anyone aged 21 and older to place legal sports bets online would generate more than $21 million in new state tax revenue. The bill would impose a 14% tax on gross sportsbook revenue. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) believes the windfall could be even larger, estimating that the state would collect $60 million through the liberalization of sports betting in the 2024-25 fiscal year.
The bill also seeks to cap the number of online sportsbooks to 12 platforms and charge them a $1 million license fee every five years. In order to lure players in, Saine’s measure would allow sportsbooks to deduct the promotional credits they issue to new customers from their net revenue until 2027.
Despite its momentum, the bill has not gone unopposed. State Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) expressed her concerns over the promotions and “free” bets that online sportsbooks commonly offer to new players, calling them “predatory”.
Though the bill has been stalled in the House before, this year there appears to be enough support to get it over the line due to the 40 new lawmakers in the 170-member bicameral legislature. Saine himself is positive that the bill will pass, noting that “it’s a new year, and we have new legislators.”