State lawmakers passed a North Carolina sportsbooks law three months ago. Now, however, as ongoing budget negotiations appear to be breaking down, a version of the latest spending plan leaked to a Raleigh media outlet appears to show legislators already want to make “technical changes” to the statute.
If approved, the state would no longer cap the number of NC betting apps to 12. However, lawmakers would require they now have a written agreement with one of the state’s major professional sports teams, certain venues or organizations. WRAL received a copy of the 611-page budget bill draft that contained the changes.
It remains to be seen whether these changes have been approved by leaders in both chambers. Talks on the budget, which was due to start on July 1, hit a snag earlier this month when House Speaker Tim Moore told Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger that House Republicans did not have enough votes within the caucus to pass a budget that included language authorizing up to four casinos and video lottery terminals statewide.
House Bill 347, the sports betting bill, passed with bipartisan support in June and was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper days later. The bill gives the North Carolina Lottery Commission the authority to license sports betting operators. Under the budget proposal, the commission would still have that power, but could only approve operators who have “a written designation agreement” with the Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte FC, North Carolina Courage, an auto racing track, a golf course that hosts an annual professional tournament, NASCAR or a professional golf governing body. Entities eligible to enter into a deal with a sports betting operator would only be allowed to do so with one operator.
Democrats Slam Medicaid-For-Casinos Proposal
The news of the potential changes to the North Carolina sports betting law came at the end of a whirlwind day that saw Democratic lawmakers lash out at Republican leaders for a plan that would tie funding for an already-approved Medicaid expansion to the passage of expanded gaming. Members of the House Democratic Caucus, in their open letter posted online Monday afternoon, accused Republicans of “gambling with our healthcare and our future” and said they would not be “bullied” into voting for gaming in exchange for Medicaid funding.
“They are cynically using health care as a political bargaining chip to force passage of a casino bill developed in secret and written by casino lobbyists,” House Democrats wrote. “It gives one company a monopoly and no opportunity for local citizens to vote on whether they want a casino.” Hours earlier, Senate Democrats issued their own letter. In it, they accused Republicans of ignoring North Carolina residents’ needs while working on behalf of a “Maryland casino developer.” The company is not named, but media reports indicate The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based development company, could be the favorite to win the bidding for three casinos if legislation passes.
“Medicaid expansion remains a priority for our caucus,” the caucus wrote in the letter that was signed by all 20 members. “However, we ... will not be held hostage by Republican leadership in delivering for their handpicked casino developer in their pay-to-play scheme. We are united in opposing this latest political stunt.”
What Happens Next?
The Raleigh News & Observer reported Sunday on the plan to break the casino language off from the budget and offer it as a separate bill. Those bills were expected to be voted upon later this week, but it remains uncertain if either have enough support.
In order for any gaming legislation to pass in the North Carolina General Assembly – regardless of whether it’s part of the budget bill or standalone legislation – it will need a simple majorities in both chambers. In the House, that’s 61 yes votes from the 120 members. In the Senate, that’s 26 out of 50.
Republicans hold 30 seats in the Senate and 69 in the House. It’s been reported that around 40 House GOP lawmakers support casino gaming. BetCarolina.com will continue to cover what’s happening in Raleigh as lawmakers consider bringing commercial casino gaming into the state. We’re also the site for the latest North Carolina sportsbook promos.