The North Carolina House paved the way for legislation that would legalize mobile sports betting in the state. But that doesn’t mean the House is ready to start moving the bill.
The North Carolina Senate passed the sports wagering bill by a narrow margin on Aug. 18. Since then, it has sat stagnant in the committee that assigns bills.
This week, there finally seemed to be some movement. The Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House referred S 688 to the Committee on Commerce.
The House also determined that if it fared well in Commerce, it would go to Judiciary and then to Finance.
All of that can happen within a few days, but first the legislation needs to clear two bigger hurdles.
North Carolina legislature focuses on budget
Sports betting has been on the backburner since August because there’s a much more important issue in the state.
A new fiscal year started on July 1, and lawmakers still haven’t reached a budget agreement with Gov. Roy Cooper. The process is complicated by Cooper being a Democrat with both legislative chambers led by Republicans.
House and Senate leaders hope to reach an agreement on a budget to send to Cooper to review next week.
Rep. Jason Saine, the sports betting sponsor in the House, is at the center of these negotiations as chair of the Committee on Appropriations.
So neither he, nor House lawmakers, have had any time to deal with sports betting legislation at the moment.
Details of North Carolina sports betting bill
Introduced in April by Sen. Jim Perry, details of S 688 include:
- Appoints the North Carolina Education Lottery (NCEL) to oversee sports betting.
- Instructs the NCEL to issue between 10 and 12 mobile sports betting licenses.
- Allows the owner/operator of sports facilities that host professional sports games with a capacity of 17,000 or more to place sports betting lounges at or within a quarter mile of the facility.
- Initial fee of $500,000 for a five-year license, renewable for $100,000.
- Tax rate of 8%.
- Allows wagering on college sports.
- Mandates operators use official league data for in-play wagers.
Pessimism for NC passage this year
In a normal year, North Carolina legislators already would be done with the session.
The latest goal is to have the budget done by mid-October. And then lawmakers still have to deal with redistricting before completing their duty for the year.
Will House members have any bandwidth left to deal with sports betting? Certainly, lawmakers want to take a look at a bill that passed the other chamber, and Saine is a good champion to have.
However, after a long, drawn out debate over the budget, it’s easy to understand them not wanting to take up a controversial sports betting bill.
The sports wagering legislation is being opposed by religious organizations in the state. As a result, it barely passed in the Senate.
Showing the sensitivity of the issue, Republicans allowed the bill to get to the floor and pass, but few wanted to put their name on it. Only 10 of 28 Republicans voted in support.
Yet, Senate champion Perry tells PlayTenn he is holding out hope.
“I do believe there is time, if they wish for there to be time,” Perry said.