North Carolina lawmakers are set to proceed Thursday with a state budget that will radically change the nascent North Carolina sports betting law. Votes are expected in both the House and Senate on Thursday and Friday before sending the two-year spending package to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Legislative leaders finally reached an agreement on Tuesday evening after weeks of negotiations, which toward the end became contentious after some House Republicans balked at a plan to legalize commercial casinos and allow video lottery terminals statewide.
While those gaming matters were eventually removed from the bill, the updates to the sports betting law became public earlier this week when WRAL-TV in Raleigh received a draft copy of the bill.
What Changes In North Carolina
Labeled as “technical corrections,” the budget item strikes out the requirement the North Carolina Lottery Commission approves up to 12 NC sports betting app operators in the state. In its place, lawmakers will now require the commission to approve sports betting operators if they have “a written designation agreement” with an approved partner.
Those partners include professional sports teams, companies that either own or operate a golf course that hosts an annual professional golf tournament or an auto racing track, NASCAR and professional golf tours with annual events in the state. As written, that would allow the Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, FC Charlotte and North Carolina Courage to partner with an operator. It would also allow both the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the North Wilkesboro Speedway to seek deals with operators.
Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Golf Club, which hosts the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship, and Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club, which hosts the PGAT’s Wyndham Championship, would also be eligible to partner with an operator. With NASCAR and the PGA Tour itself also eligible, that would give 11 entities the ability to offer an agreement deal to a sports betting operator.
The changes also list a Major League Baseball team as those eligible to partner with an operator. There currently is no MLB team based in North Carolina. However, the league has expressed an interest in expanding in the coming years, and Charlotte has been mentioned as a potential candidate for a franchise.
It remains to be seen if the changes will impact when statewide sports betting can start. Lawmakers did not alter the 2024 launch window that opens on Jan. 8 and runs through mid-June. It also does not impact the tax rate or the actual cost of the license. The lottery did not comment Wednesday when asked about the proposed changes.
At least one operator blasted state lawmakers for making the change. Sporttrade CEO and Founder Alex Kane noted on X (formerly Twitter) that the sports betting law passed three months ago called for operators to have direct access to licenses.
“Now the leagues will get to control and monetize who gets a license,” he posted. “This would statutorily impose private business as the gate-keepers to tax and control who enters the state.”
At this stage, the changes to the sports betting law are almost certain to take effect. North Carolina is one of the few states that does not give the governor line-item veto authority. That means Cooper would be unable to reject only that portion of the budget bill, subject to the legislature voting to overturn that veto.
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