North Carolina House Rejects Mobile Sports Betting Bill

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North Carolina House Rejects Mobile Sports Betting Bill
© USA Today

A vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday might have ended any chance of a North Carolina mobile sports betting bill being passed this year.

The House voted 52-49 to kill Senate Bill 688, which would have allowed the use of mobile apps to place bets statewide. An effort by Rep. John Bell, R-Raleigh, to revive the bill by sending it back to a committee for adjustments also was rejected on the House floor. The bill would have allowed for mobile sports betting on professional and college sports.

Late Wednesday, another sports betting bill, SB38, was taken off the House calendar for Thursday and referred back to the Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee.

SB38 was approved in the House on second reading by a 51-50 vote Wednesday afternoon. 

The third and final reading of SB38 had been scheduled for Thursday on the House floor. An amendment to SB38 on the House floor Wednesday would prohibit any betting on college sports.

Time Running Out on Session

This year's legislative session ends June 30 at the statehouse in Raleigh, limiting the time needed to approve bills. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper indicated he supports the expansion of sports betting, citing the jobs it would create.

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 SB 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.

State's Pro Teams Support Bill

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, SB 688, the other 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. 

This action sent the bills Wednesday to the House floor, where some legislators objected that gambling can lead to corruption in sports, suicide among compulsive bettors and crimes such as prostitution. 

Supporters argued illegal betting already is occurring in North Carolina but those who participate in that activity illegally don't have access now to programs combating compulsive gambling, as state-regulated wagering would provide. 

Two-Bill Strategy

SB38 is a previously unrelated bill approved last year in the Senate. It had 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 would have required a simple concurrence in the Senate. Last August, the Senate approved SB688. Without amendments, senators would not have been required to go on the record in voting on SB688 bill again with the general election looming in November. House committees this week did not allow amendments to SB688.

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

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.

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, and then to the House floor. 

With sports betting apparently having failed in the House this year, North Carolina residents wanting to use smartphone apps to place legal bets will have to travel to the neighboring states of Tennessee and Virginia, where mobile wagering is legal and regulated.

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