A state Senate committee voted Tuesday to make more changes to a bill that would legalize mobile North Carolina sports betting. However, the newest version of the bill removed one major obstacle toward reaching an agreement with proponents in the House.
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved, but not unanimously, an amended version of House Bill 347. While most of the amendment made minor technical corrections to the bill, a provision that would have allowed slot-like historical horse racing (HHR) machines at horse racing tracks was removed.
HHR was in the version passed last week by the Senate Commerce Committee as part of the language that legalized horse racing and online parimutuel wagering accounts.
The committee’s amendment also gives the North Carolina State Lottery Commission more time and flexibility on launching sports betting. While the bill calls for sports betting rules to be established by Jan. 8, 2024, the new amendment will give the commission up to 12 months after after the law takes effect to rollout sports betting statewide.
Less than 90 minutes after the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill, the Senate Rules and Operations Committee followed suit. That now means the bill heads to the Senate floor, where votes to pass the bill and make North Carolina sports betting apps a reality are expected to happen later this week.
State Anticipates $100M in Revenue by 2028
North Carolina is one of the 37 U.S. states where sports betting is legal. However, it is confined only to in-person wagering at one of the state’s three tribal casinos. HB 347 would change that.
In its current format, it would allow the North Carolina State Lottery Commission to approve up to a dozen operators that could offer online wagering statewide. Operators would pay $1 million for a five-year license.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Nation of Indians would be allowed to partner with online operators, and those agreements would not count against the 12-license cap.
Other amendments made by the Senate to state rep. Jason Saine’s bill allow some commercial venues to host in-person sportsbooks. The Senate’s amendment also raises the tax on operator revenue from 14% to 18%. At the same time, the Senate version also prohibits operators from deducting promotional credits from their tax liability.
Moffitt Talks Regulation Reality
State Sen. Tim Moffitt told the Rules Committee that representatives from the House and Senate have worked over the past eight days to refine the bill. While Moffitt said his gambling days are likely over, he added his five adult sons would likely want to bet on sports. Even though it’s not legal, sports betting has been happening in North Carolina for years, with estimates indicating residents wagered $1.7 billion just in the last year.
“In order for us to have an opportunity to manage something that is occurring with a tremendous amount of frequency, then we must authorize it first so we can regulate it, and as a part of that regulatory construct, through taxation, we can create a public benefit that can also help us manage and influence something that's occurring,” Moffitt said.
A fiscal note released Tuesday based on the current Senate version estimates the state would receive $11.8M in tax revenue for fiscal year 2023-24. Tax revenue would go up to $76.4 million in the next fiscal year, the first full year of operations. By 2027-28, that's expected to increase to $100.6 million in tax revenue by the 2027-28 fiscal year. That’s based on all 12 licenses being issued.
After expenses, North Carolina legislative analysts estimate legalized sports betting would have a net impact on state coffers of $10.1 million in '23-24. In FY 2024-25 that impact would jump to $62.4 million and grow to $71.1 million by 2027-28.
Funding from sports betting would fund problem gambling services in the state, a grant program for youth sporting activities, athletic departments at 13 North Carolina universities, a major events fund that would be created by the law and the state’s General Fund.
North Carolina Sports Betting Background
The Senate passed a sports betting bill last year, only to see it defeated in the House by a one-vote margin. This time around, the legislation started in the House, where HB 347 was passed by a 64-45 vote two months ago.
If the final Senate version has any differences to the House version, then the House would either need to concur with the changes or both chambers would need to set up a conference committee to reach agreement on a final bill.
If a conference committee is needed, they would have until the end of the season to hammer out their differences. The session is expected to end in the summer.
Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign a sports betting bill into law if one comes across his desk this year.
Keep tabs on BetCarolina on the road to full legislation, and we're also home to North Carolina sports betting promos for new customers.