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North Carolina Sports Betting Future Taking Shape Behind the Scenes

North Carolina Sports Betting Future Taking Shape Behind the Scenes article feature image

Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Members of the North Carolina football team.

North Carolina began its 2022 lawmaking period with significant buzz around legalizing online sports betting.

However, with just 16 days before the end of the legislative session, there has been zero movement on a bill that would bring up to 12 mobile sportsbooks into the Tar Heel State, where currently only in-person betting at a few casinos is legal.

Lobbyists and industry analysts say that’s likely because negotiations are taking place behind the scenes, though that approach has derailed similar efforts before.

“I continue to be optimistic on North Carolina. I’m pushing all my chips in,” said Brandt Iden, head of government affairs at Sportradar and a former Michigan state representative. “The stakeholders have come together and it feels like an agreement’s been reached.

North Carolina’s legislative session ends on June 30, so time is running out to pass the mobile sports betting bill in the 2022 legislative session.

— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) June 14, 2022

Gathering Dust Since Last Year

The bill (SB 688), which passed the Senate last year, has been sitting in a House Judiciary committee since the start of the 2022 session. The committee, which normally meets on Tuesdays, is not slated to meet this week, though it may hold an emergency hearing at any time.

A similar bill (HB 361) is sitting in the House Commerce Committee, though if the House votes it through, lawmakers would have to tweak its language to match the Senate bill beforehand.

“When you get done to this time in the process there’s always some wrinkles to be hammered out,” said John Pappas, state advocacy director at iDEA Growth. “There’s going to be a lot of push and pull from now til the end of June on what this final bill looks like.

Should the Judiciary committee approve the Senate bill, several more committees would still need to sign off before a House floor vote.

Only then could Gov. Roy Cooper sign it into law, though according to Iden he’s pushing to squeeze out more revenue.

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Waiting on Trailer Bill

That’s expected to come in the form of what’s known as a “trailer bill”, which effectively allows significant tweaks to pending legislation without having to restart the initial bill’s legislative journey.

One source suggested that bill could incorporate a tax rate as high as 16%, double the current bill’s 8% rate, and up the five-year operator license fee from $500,000 to $1 million.

“It’s unlikely the bill will have the support to pass unless there is trailer legislation that addresses some issues like the tax rate and expanding what types of venues can offer retail betting,” Pappas said. “There’s been discussion of tribes seeking exclusivity for gaming on their tribal lands, which isn’t unprecedented. We’ve seen Arizona and Michigan tribes ring-fence betting on their lands.

He added that the trailer bill will likely incorporate a few additional “purely technical” changes, such as how the state defines an an operator.

Last-Minute Movement Creates Risk

Missouri, which nearly legalized sports betting earlier this year, tried to hammer out some similar last minute wrinkles before its effort went up in flames.

Though, Iden chalks that up less to timing and more to competing priorities.

“In this particular case I think the trailer bill’s been talked about by the governor, by house democrats,” he said. “It feels like there’s an agreement. It’s different than Missouri.”

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