Legislation in North Carolina seeking to bring legal commercial sports betting to the state has passed its first major hurdle.
Senate Bill 688, introduced by Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir), would authorize licensed commercial enterprises to conduct sports wagering. The legislation was passed favorably this week in the Senate Finance Committee.
We have sports betting today for those who want to bet. It’s just not something regulated and taxed by the state,” Perry told committee members regarding illegal offshore online sports betting sites that facilitate wagers.
Perry’s bill would allow for betting on professional and collegiate sports. Oddsmakers would be clear to offer lines on games involving colleges and universities located in the state.
Twenty-one states, plus DC, have regulated sportsbooks taking legal bets. Two of North Carolina’s neighboring states — Tennessee and Virginia — are among the legal sports betting states.
Commercial Sports Betting Expansion
Sports betting became legal in North Carolina on Native American lands last December. That’s when state lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) approved an amended tribal gaming compact with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).
The tribe owns the state’s two current casino resorts — Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. Both properties are located in the western part of the state.
The US Bureau of Indian Affairs, a department within the Department of the Interior, ratified the updated EBCI gaming compacts on March 2, 2021. Legal sports betting went live at the two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos later that month. A third tribal sportsbook is in the works by way of the planned Two Kings Casino just outside Charlotte.
Perry’s SB688 would bring commercial businesses into the sports betting space. The legislation calls for as many as 12 mobile sports betting permits. Licenses obtained by professional sports venues could additionally obtain brick-and-mortar privileges for on-site retail wagering.
North Carolina is home to three major professional sports franchises — the NFL Carolina Panthers, NBA Charlotte Hornets, and NHL Carolina Hurricanes. The state also hosts two annual NASCAR Cup Series races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
SB688 sets a one-time licensing fee for those approved at $500,000. Oddsmakers would share eight percent of their gross revenue from sports betting with the state.
The tax revenue, under Perry’s statute, would be allocated towards efforts to bring marquee national sporting events to the state — such as the Super Bowl, NFL Draft, and NCAA tournaments. The remaining sports betting taxes would go to the state’s general fund.
Religious opposition, including the North Carolina Family Policy Council, rejected the effort to legalize sports betting. In its address to the Senate Finance Committee, the faith-based organization linked gambling to societal harms, including broken marriages.
In addition to harming individual lives, marriages and families, Senate Bill 688 will degrade our state, which has an incredibly rich heritage in collegiate, amateur, and professional sports. With the passage of this bill, gambling — and not the games themselves — will become the centerpiece of sports competition in North Carolina,” opined Family Policy Council President John Rustin.
Rustin added that gamblers who become addicted — estimated at around three to five percent of all gamblers — are likelier to engage in theft and embezzlement, lose their jobs, enter into bankruptcy, abuse drugs and alcohol, and commit suicide.
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