New Bill Would Bring Online Sports Betting to North Carolina

New Bill Would Bring Online Sports Betting to North Carolina
© USA Today

North Carolina saw its first legislative movement in online sports wagering Wednesday, when a bill was introduced in the state Senate calling for 10 to 12 mobile licenses to be issued as well as online licenses for tribal casinos in the western part of the state.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Jim Perry and Democratic Sen. Paul A. Lowe Jr., could be enacted in North Carolina as soon as Oct. 1. The legislature is in session until July 30.

Sports wagering would come under the purview of the North Carolina State Lottery Commission. As is the case in all jurisdictions, all wagering would be required to be intra-state. There is also a provision for customers to self-exclude from wagering.

North Carolina saw its first legal bets placed in March. The retail bets were taken in two tribal casinos in the western part of the state, the only places to bet legally in the state.

Details of the NC Sports Betting Bill

Among salient details of North Carolina SB 688 are:

  • Wagers would be accepted on pro sports, college sports, eSports and amateur sports (but not youth sports).
  • A proposed 8% tax rate, which would be among the lowest in the country for sports wagering.
  • An application fee of $500,000.
  • A provision for what would amount to mobile betting lounges in the state’s sports facilities — presumably Bank of America Stadium (the NFL Panthers), the Spectrum Center (NBA Hornets) and PNC Arena (NHL Hurricanes).
  • Tribal casinos would be eligible for online sports wagering licenses. Currently, two casinos operate in the western part of the state under the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Also, a Catawba Nation casino is planned near Charlotte. Online licenses for Native American casinos apparently would not count against the 10 to 12 licenses that would be otherwise available.
  • A fund would be set up to help attract major sports events, such as golf tournaments.

Retail Sports Betting Live at Tribal Casinos

The North Carolina legislature passed a sports betting bill allowing retail wagering at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' two Harrah’s Casinos on July 16, 2019. It was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper later that month, making in-person wagering legal at the two casinos, both in the western part of the state.

North Carolina bettors started placing their first legal sports bets in the state in time for March Madness. ”The Book” sportsbooks at the Harrah’s Casinos in Cherokee and Murphy opened on March 18 before the first games of the NCAA Tournament that day.

Cooper and the tribe reached agreement on an amended compact in early December. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the compact between the state and the Cherokee tribe in early March.

On March 26, the Catawba Tribe received federal approval to build a casino in in Kings Mountain, Cleveland County, about 35 miles west of Charlotte. The tribe plans to open a temporary facility in the fall. The Cherokees are contesting the casino.

Sports Betting & Online Gambling Study

A study was approved by the North Carolina legislature in 2019 and the North Carolina Education Lottery commissioned Spectrum Gaming of New Jersey to prepare a report on online gambling and sports wagering. The state lottery forwarded the findings of the study to the appropriate legislative committee members in 2020.

Among the details of the study is a recommendation that sports wagering be operated by the North Carolina Lottery both online and by using the best performers in its existing network of retail outlets. At the retail outlets, bettors would place wagers using self-service terminals.

Lottery-run sports-betting operations in D.C., Montana and Oregon have had numerous issues and have not had near the success of sports-betting markets with multiple operators.

In the study, Spectrum projected the state could generate net revenues of approximately $32 million in the first year and $104 million in the fifth year, totaling approximately $396 million in the first five years of operations.

The findings the lottery shared with legislative committee members also broached the topics of iGaming and even the introduction of commercial casinos.

Neighboring States Have Legal Sports Betting

In the expansion of sports wagering in the U.S. since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, North Carolina has seen neighboring states Virginia and Tennessee legalize online sports betting.

Tennessee opened its all-online sports betting market on Nov. 1. Virginia, which is all online until casinos are built, took its first legal sports bet in late January.

Recently, Wyoming legalized online sports betting and Maryland is currently hammering out the details of a bill that would include retail and online sports betting.

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