The North Carolina mobile sports betting bill is on the move, but it’s racking up some enemies along the way.
For the second consecutive week, S 688 received a favorable report from a Senate committee.
However, testimony on the bill Monday in the Judiciary Committee showed its difficult path forward.
John Rustin of the North Carolina Family Policy Council and Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina made strong statements against expanding sports betting statewide.
Retail sports betting already is offered in North Carolina at two tribal casinos.
According to the religious organization leaders, mobile sports betting will bring the hopeless ruin of both body and mind to many North Carolinians.
Religious groups bring doomsday hyperbole to hearing
Creech called gambling the most predatory industry in the country, and he was the more measured of the two.
Rustin rolled off a whole list of societal ills he claimed would be exacerbated by mobile sports betting.
“As members of the North Carolina Senate, I would like to ask each of you to consider how you would respond if you were presented with a bill that you knew would lead to an increase in domestic violence, child abuse, divorce, substance abuse, theft, embezzlement, job loss, personal bankruptcy and even suicide. Unfortunately, this will be the result of the bill that you have before you if it is enacted into law.”
And what sports teams and leagues have been telling state legislatures around the country about wagering enhancing fan engagement? Rustin isn’t buying it.
“SB 688 will also degrade our state and the rich heritage we have in collegiate, amateur and professional sports,” he said. “With the passage of this bill, gambling will become the centerpiece of sports competition in North Carolina instead of the games themselves.”
Details of North Carolina sports betting bill
Sen. Jim Perry and Sen. Paul Lowe introduced S 688 in mid-April. It sat for more than four months before Perry, the majority whip, got it going in August.
- 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 or operator of sports facilities 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.
Although the bill was amended last week in the Finance Committee, the main details remained the same.
Polling shows NC support for sports wagering
Eastern Carolina University conducted a survey of 762 North Carolina residents in the last month.
The polling revealed that:
- 54% of North Carolinians approve of legalized sports betting in the state.
- A higher percentage of Democrats (54%) support legalization than Republicans (43%). The NC legislature is majority Republican.
- Younger people want legalization, 70% of people ages 18 to 44. Only 43% of those 45 and older approve.
- One in three (32%) polled said they would bet on sports if allowed by law.
- Asked whether they would prefer taxing sports betting revenue to pay for the costs of education and health care as opposed to raising property taxes, 80% agreed.
That’s why Perry introduced the legislation, to tax an industry asking for it rather than increase property taxes on farm owners.
“I represent a lot of farmers who have to shoulder property tax increases,” Perry said. “Any time I can find a tax that is just about voluntary and not put more burden on our farming folks in rural areas, I feel an obligation to investigate.”
Path forward for North Carolina sports betting bill
Usually, the North Carolina legislature breaks for the year around this time. However, Perry expects lawmakers to go into October or November to complete redistricting efforts.
While redistricting takes priority, he believes there will be room to discuss sports betting.
Although it has passed two committees, it does not yet head to the floor. First, it needs to go through the Committee on Commerce.
Despite the negative push from religious organizations, Perry believes there is bipartisan support for the bill.
“We are in the Bible Belt, and they do show up to voice their opinion,” Perry said. “I wouldn’t be taking it to committee if I didn’t think the votes were there.”
He’s not as confident about the House, which he says will be the harder push. But the bill does have an influential champion there as well. Rep. Jason Saine, the Appropriations Committee chair, introduced companion legislation.