North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Passes First Hurdle in Senate

North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Passes First Hurdle in Senate
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

North Carolina senators on Wednesday voted to approve a bill that legalizes sports betting statewide.

The 38-11 vote on House Bill 347 was mainly procedural. The vote came after the bill’s second reading, though one more approval is needed after the third reading before it can advance. That next vote could come as early as Thursday when the Senate meets at 11am ET. 

Wednesday’s action comes a day after two Senate committees voted in favor of the bill. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee amended the legislation to take out language that would have legalized historical horse racing, verbiage that was inserted last week in the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee.

Sports betting is already legal in North Carolina, as it is available at the state’s three tribal casinos. HB 347 in its current form would allow up to 12 operators to take bets online statewide, creating an entire new landscape of North Carolina sports betting apps

It also would open the door for in-person sportsbooks at certain facilities, and it would legalize horse racing as well as online wagering accounts for racing. Sports betting licenses would cost $1 million and cover five years. The Senate’s bill taxes revenues at 18%, while the House’s version offered a 14% tax. 

Revenues would cover a litany of state programs.

A fiscal note released Tuesday indicated sports betting could generate more than $100 million by the 2027-28 FY if the Senate’s version is approved.

One issue that presented itself on Wednesday? Reports surfaced that House Speaker Rep. Timothy K. Moore of Cleveland County does not concur with the Senate bill and his preference is to roll sports gambling, VLTs and casinos into one bill. Stay tuned with BetCarolina.com tomorrow for more developments. 

Is the Tax Constitutional?

As has been the case in the Senate committees, opponents of the measure were the only ones who commented on HB 347.

Those against the North Carolina sports betting bill have taken stands based on their religious convictions and also raised concerns about the addictive nature of sports betting and other gambling activities.

On Wednesday, state Sen. Lisa Grafstein brought up her concern that the tax rate proponents are considering goes against the state’s constitution, which limits any income tax to 7%.

“What we could end up with in this bill is that tax being found unconstitutional,” she said. “And the revenues that we were all counting on, to pay for a lot of the things that are in the bill, those revenues go away.”

Proponents of the bill say the tax in HB 347 is a privilege tax and not a levy on income.

What’s Next for North Carolina Sports Betting?

Should HB 347 pass the Senate, it would mark the first time a sports betting bill has passed both chambers. Last year, the Senate approved a similar measure, but it failed in the House.

This year, proponents started the process in the House, which approved the bill two months ago.

However, the bill is not ready to head to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk just yet. The House needs to concur on the Senate’s changes, and that remains to be seen with Moore's new viewpoint. Besides raising the tax rate, the Senate’s version also eliminates operators from deducting promotional bonuses from their tax liabilities.

If the House does not approve, then leaders in both chambers would need to establish a conference committee to settle any differences between their versions of the bill.

Keep tabs on BetCarolina on the road to full legislation, and we're also home to North Carolina sports betting promos for new customers.

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Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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