Efforts to fully legalize sports betting in North Carolina took a major step forward on Tuesday.
That’s when the state House of Representatives agreed to changes the Senate made to House Bill 347. House members voted 68-41 to concur with the amended version after no debate on the floor.
Technically, the House is not done with the bill sponsored by state Rep. Jason Saine. It will take a second vote before it can go to Gov. Roy Cooper, who has indicated his support for legalizing North Carolina betting apps and sites.
Tuesday's vote also marked the first time House Speaker Tim Moore could vote on the measure. Previously, Moore had recused himself from voting on HB 347 and other similar legislation in the past due to legal work he did for the Catawba Nation, a tribal community that operates a casino in Kings Mountain.
Last month, a state legislative ethics panel determined Moore could vote on gaming legislation.
Sports betting is already legal in the state. However, it’s currently limited to in-person wagering at casinos operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Catawbas on their lands, and North Carolina sportsbook promos are not yet available.
No Vote On Tuesday
Tuesday’s vote came with no discussion on the House floor, aside from some comments Saine made about the changes the Senate inserted. That did not sit well with state Rep. Pricey Harrison, who has been a staunch opponent of the bill.
“I hope it's appropriate to ask this question, but there are new provisions in this, in the bill, that was sent over to us,” she said to Moore. “Are we going to have a chance to debate this bill, perhaps tomorrow?”
Moore told Harrison to ask Saine whether he’d be willing for that to happen, and the Speaker added he expected there would only be a “short debate” on Tuesday because of the calendar.
Wednesday would be the earliest the House could schedule the final vote on the bill.
What HB 347 Does
This year’s bill would allow the North Carolina Education Lottery to license up to 12 online operators. EBCI and the Catawbas would also be allowed to have an online partner that would not count toward the 12.
Operators would pay $1 million for a five-year license. The money would be due when the application is submitted, with 95% returned to the applicant if the Lottery Commission rejects their submission. The remaining 5% would cover costs incurred for review.
Besides online sports betting, the Senate added a provision to expand brick-and-mortar sportsbooks beyond the tribal casinos. It would allow major sporting venues across the state, such as Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and PNC Arena in Raleigh, to host sportsbooks.
The state would tax operator revenue at 18%. That was another change made by the Senate, bumping the rate up from the House’s proposed 14%. The Senate also removed the ability for operators to deduct promotional spending for tax purposes.
Money from sports betting would fund a variety of initiatives in North Carolina. HB 347 allocates $2 million annually for problem gambling services and education, $1 million for youth sports grants and another $1 million to the state’s Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council for athletic event and team grants.
Sports betting tax revenue would also cover athletic department funding at 13 public universities across the state. That money would not go to the state’s schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The state would also use the revenue to establish a fund to attract major sporting events, and the state’s General Fund would receive half of the money.
If approved, the Lottery Commission would have until Jan. 8, 2024, to enact its rules and regulations to oversee sports betting. However, lottery officials would have up to a year after HB 347 becomes law to allow operators to take wagers in the state.
A lottery spokesperson told BetCarolina earlier this month the commission won’t know the full scope of its requirements until the bill becomes law. Still, it would work as quickly as possible to get qualified operators approved and launched.