North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Passed by Senate

North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Passed by Senate article feature image
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Lance King/Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Gehsmann carries a North Carolina state flag.

North Carolina lawmakers advanced a statewide mobile sports betting bill Thursday, a major step toward legal online wagering in the state.

The North Carolina Senate voted, 26-19, to pass the bill, which will allow as many as 12 operators to offer mobile sports betting in the state. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives.

A companion bill has lingered in the House for months with little action as the Senate steadily advanced the legislation through multiple committees and several revisions. The Senate and House must pass identical versions of the bill before it can pass the General Assembly.

The Senate advanced the bill, 26-21, in a perfunctory vote Wednesday.

Though the bill earned final passage with bipartisan support, some lawmakers remain opposed to gambling in any form. Outside religious and anti-gambling groups have also publicly opposed the bill.

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Bill Details

The Senate bill would permit between 10 and 12 online sportsbooks. Operators would be taxed at 8% gross gaming revenue, which would be one of the lowest rates in the country.

Eligible bettors age 21 and up can register, deposit and wager from anywhere within state lines without having to complete registration in person. Bettors could wager on in-state college programs as well as certain eSports events, as approved by regulators.

Owners of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes could also open sportsbooks in or adjacent to their respective stadiums. The host of a PGA Tour event could also open a book.

The low tax rate would further intensify what would be highly-coveted licenses.

Operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM — the nation’s three largest operators by market share — would likely highlight interested applicants. All three also operate sportsbooks in neighboring Virginia and Tennessee.

Caesars, which operates the state’s two lone retail sportsbooks at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Cherokee Valley River, respectively, would also be allotted an online sports betting license as a tribal betting partner.

The license allotted to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians would not count against the 10-to-12 operator cap.

The Catawba Indian Nation, which recently opened the state’s third casino, could presumably also apply for a tribal mobile sports betting license, though it doesn’t yet have a retail sportsbook operator partner.

Next Steps

The House must now consider the sports betting legislation before it can become law, a process that could take several more weeks. The Senate’s House companion has gained little traction, but sports betting proponents hope the Senate vote will spark momentum forward.

Backers will still have to overcome House lawmakers opposed to gambling in any form. Supporters have pitched legal sports betting to reticent legislators as a way to capture revenue from the current black market.

If passed out of the Republican-controlled General Assembly, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper would still have to sign the bill into law before legal wagering could begin.

Each sportsbook would also need to pass state regulatory approval, a process that would take several months, so even a 2021 legislative passage would mean a likely 2022 sports betting launch.

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