Clock Ticking On Legalizing Sports Betting In North Carolina

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Clock Ticking On Legalizing Sports Betting In North Carolina
© USA Today

With the North Carolina legislative session in its final weeks, the clock is ticking on an effort to legalize mobile sports betting in the state.

Last August, the state Senate OK’d the sports betting measure, Senate Bill 688, on a 26-19 vote. That vote sent the measure to the House of Representatives for consideration.  

The House was expected to take mobile sports betting up during the current short session from May 18 to June 30 at the statehouse in Raleigh.

Wagering Bill Awaits Committee Hearing

The North Carolina mobile sports betting bill is awaiting a hearing in the Judiciary 1 House Committee. A hearing date has not been set.

If approved there, it would require additional committee votes and approval by the full House. Any changes would have to be OK’d in the Senate.

Though key House members say they have the votes for approval, the process to achieve these steps can take time.

If the bill gets out of the Legislature before the session ends this month, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has indicated he would support expanding sports betting, pointing to the jobs it would create. 

The only legal sports betting in North Carolina now occurs inside two tribal casinos.

The bill under consideration in Raleigh would allow for 10-12 online sports betting operators statewide.

Sports Betting Limited In South

Across the South, sports betting legislation was shot down this year at statehouses from Kentucky to Georgia. 

Sports betting is legal in only four of 11 states with university athletic teams competing in the Southeastern Conference. Those four states are Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. 

Sports betting does not occur legally in the second and third most populous U.S. states, Texas and Florida, which also are home to SEC schools.

The nation’s most populous state, California, also does not have legal sports betting, though it is expected to be on the November ballot.

Supporters Tout Tax Gains  

Kentucky is one example of the difficulty in approving sports betting in some states throughout the region, especially during an election year, when legislators can be reluctant to vote on bills that might alienate constituents.   

Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, told religious and conservative factions in the Bluegrass State object to sports betting, making approval difficult.

“There’s a lot of opposition in the rural parts of the state,” he said.

Sports betting supporters attempt to counter that opposition by pointing to the tax revenue that would stay home if bettors aren’t crossing into neighboring states where wagering is legal. Sports betting is legal and live in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

This year, the Kentucky sports betting bill died quietly in the legislative session’s final nighttime hours without a Senate vote.

Room For Sports Betting To Expand

Nationwide, the South remains the last large geographic area with an opportunity for major growth in the sports betting industry.

The combined population in four large Southern states without sports betting —Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — is about 72 million. 

The population exceeds 90 million when other regional states that also don’t have legal sports betting are added. These other states are South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and Oklahoma.

When state lawmakers meet next year, after the November elections are over, a renewed push for sports betting is expected in Southern states.

In Texas, for instance, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said legal sports betting is inevitable. Even if lawmakers approve sports betting next year, however, it still would have to go before the public in a statewide vote. That puts the earliest possible start date for legal sports betting in Texas at 2025. 

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