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North Carolina Online Sports Betting Bill Advances After Long Delay

North Carolina Online Sports Betting Bill Advances After Long Delay article feature image

Will Newton / Getty Images. Pictured: LaMelo Ball.

North Carolina lawmakers advanced an online sports betting bill Wednesday, the state’s first significant action on the legislation in months and a major first step toward statewide mobile wagering.

The Senate Finance Committee advanced the bill through a voice vote with minor opposition Wednesday. Lawmakers acknowledged that significant work remains, but the hearing helps a long-stalled proposal gain momentum in what could be another major legal betting market.

Sports Betting Details

If passed, between 10 and 12 sportsbook operators could apply for a statewide mobile license. Operators would be taxed eight percent of adjusted gross gaming revenue, one of the lowest rates in the country.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Majority Whip Jim Perry, said Wednesday the tax rate could change during the legislative process. Several Finance Committee members also questioned the tax allocation structure, which will likely remain a point of contention for further deliberations.

Eligible bettors age 21 and up could deposit and wager from anywhere within state lines without registering in-person at a brick-and-mortar gaming facility beforehand. There are no restrictions for team bets on in-state college programs, the Olympics or eSports.

Owners of sports venues or a golf course that hosts a PGA Tour event could open sportsbooks in or within a half-mile radius of their facilities.

There are two retail sportsbooks in North Carolina, at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Cherokee Valley River, respectively. Both are in the state’s rural, western portion and are a multi-hour drive from the Charlotte or Atlanta metro areas.

Caesars, which operates both sportsbooks, would almost assuredly be a leading online license applicant. Other likely interested operators include DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, all of which operate in both neighboring Tennessee and Virginia.

Next Steps

Wednesday’s committee vote after months without any legislative action is a positive sign for further momentum. The bill still has a long way to go.

The bill will have to pass through further committees before a potential vote on the full Senate floor. From there, the bill goes through additional committee review in the House which must pass an identical version of the legislation before it can go to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for final approval.

The House already has a version of the Senate bill, but no action has been taken in the lower chamber. The Senate tweaked its bill already Wednesday and lawmakers have already indicated more changes are coming.

Though the bill has bipartisan support from co-sponsors including Perry and Democrat Paul A. Lowe Jr., the bill faces political headwinds in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. Some Republicans oppose gambling in any form and may oppose the state’s first legal online gaming option.

Proponents have argued the bill can help capture dollars from illegal, black-market and offshore wagers already occurring and funnel that money back toward education and other state funding.

Though there may be enough political support between the two parties already, bills don’t typically advance without majority support from the controlling party. It will be up to Republicans such as Perry and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to galvanize GOP backing.

Unlike most other states, The North Carolina General Assembly has no firm “sine die” date or required adjournment deadline this calendar year. Legislative sessions carry over between two calendar years and run between General Assembly elections; this means the bill could be still be taken up and debated in 2022 if not passed in 2021.

A best-case scenario sees the bill passed out of the legislature and Cooper’s desk sometime in fall 2021. That would mean a launch sometime in 2022 with a likely target go-live date before that year’s football season.

Worth Noting

North Carolina is the nation’s ninth-most populated state and one of the faster growing states. It’s home to three professional sports teams and multiple high-profile Division 1 university athletic programs, all factors that will help draw substantial interest in a potential online market.

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