Mobile Sports Betting Inches Closer To Approval In North Carolina

Mobile Sports Betting Inches Closer To Approval In North Carolina
© USA Today

Two House committees approved legislation Wednesday that would legalize North Carolina mobile sports betting

With this approval, mobile wagering legislation moved to the House floor for consideration with only eight days left in the legislative session at the statehouse in Raleigh. 

Any bill not approved by June 30 would have to be reintroduced when the General Assembly meets again next year. 

On Wednesday, mobile sports betting legislation went first through the House Finance Committee in the morning and then, in the afternoon, the House Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee.

On a 14-2 vote, the Finance Committee early Wednesday signed off on Senate Bill 38, which would allow at least 10 but no more than 12 mobile apps to be available for bettors to use on smartphones or computers.

Bettors would be allowed to wager on professional and collegiate sports. 

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North Carolina’s pro sports teams support legalizing mobile wagering. The state is home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, pictured at minicamp, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. NFL betting odds are the most popular form of sports betting in the country. 

Under SB38, mobile sports betting would go live in North Carolina no earlier than Jan. 1, 2023.

The bill would levy a 14% privilege tax on sports betting gross revenue, minus some deductions. This is up from a previously proposed 8% tax rate.

The Finance Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment to SB38 to add funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state.

The committee also favorably reported, or approved, Senate Bill 688, another mobile sports betting bill. It was approved on a 13-3 vote. 

With a favorable report in the Finance Committee, the bills later Wednesday were favorably reported on a voice vote in the House Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee.  A friendly amendment to SB38 was added in the Rules Committee, reducing promotional play credit for operators from five years to three years. 

This action sent the bills to the House floor on Wednesday.

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Two-Bill Strategy

SB38 is a previously unrelated bill approved last year in the Senate. It has been recast as a mobile sports betting measure as part of a two-bill strategy to legalize mobile sports betting.

If approved by the full House of Representatives, SB38 will require simple concurrence in the Senate. However, senators would not have to go on the record in voting on an amended SB688 with the general election looming in November. The Senate approved SB688 last year. House committees this week did not allow amendments to SB688.

The mobile sports betting bills have been presented in committee by Sen. Jim Perry, R-Kinston, and Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincolnton.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has indicated he will support expanding sports betting. 

Right now, sports betting is only allowed inside two tribal casinos in the state. North Carolina does not have commercial casinos or any other brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.

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Neighboring States Allow Mobile Wagering

One day earlier, on Tuesday, the House Judiciary 1 Committee approved Senate Bills 38 and 688, clearing the way for the measures to move to the House Finance and House Rules committees. 

If approved in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday afternoon, the sports betting measures will go to the full House for a vote.

With the clock ticking on this year’s legislative session, failure in the House would mean North Carolina residents wanting to use smartphone apps to place legal bets would have to travel to the neighboring states of Tennessee and Virginia, where mobile wagering is legal and regulated.