RALEIG, N.C. (AP) – Legislation to authorize and regulate sports gambling in North Carolina passed the House earlier this spring. Changed by the Senate to bet personally for every adult and added horse racing to the betting options.
The measure, which was cleared by the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, would increase the tax rate on the revenue that legal sports books would generate.
That and other Senate changes could create hurdles between their House counterparts to pass final legislation before the General Assembly’s first work session ends this year, perhaps as early as summer. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also supports sports betting legislation.
A major sponsor of the House measure declined to comment after the committee voted on the changes. The Senate version must still go through two committees and a floor vote.
“I’ll wait to see what their final product is,” Lincoln County GOP Rep. Jason Sain said in a text message.
Given the differences, supporters of the legalization of the sport argued that it was better for the government to license operators and tax gambling rather than continuing to operate underground or online.
“There is betting on sports in our state. But in order for us to regulate it, for us to tax it and provide a public benefit from those taxes, we must first authorize it,” St. Tim Moffett, a Henderson County Republican, told colleagues. Legal sports gambling is now only available at three casinos operated by two American Indian tribes.
Broadly similar to the House version passed in March, the Senate proposal would direct the North Carolina Lottery Commission to issue up to 12 interactive sports wagering licenses to entities that undergo robust background checks and a $1 million application. Subject to fees.
Pro, college and Olympic-type athletes can bet on both the House and Senate versions in early January.
Licensees will offer gambling online or through mobile apps or at certain professional sports arenas, stadiums and motor racing tracks.
The House proposal would only allow players with accounts to place bets. But the Senate version would allow anyone over the age of 21 to make a cash bet at a field or stadium betting window, even without creating an account.
“We want to make sure we’re putting the right rules in place, but we also want to be customer-friendly,” Moffitt told reporters in explaining the proposed expansion to customers. “Our war-torn society wants to have options to do both.”
While the House would impose a 14% royalty tax on operators’ gross revenue, minus profits and other expenses, the Senate proposed an 18% tax that leaves some deductions for operators.
Most of the tax revenue from both bills would go to local, regional and state athletic initiatives, athletic programs and problem gambling programs at several universities in the North Carolina system.
And the Senate version would create a separate licensing process and fee structure for horse racing wagering operators who want to offer bets to the public in the state. Bettors must create separate mutual accounts for making payments.
Moffett did not immediately have an estimate Wednesday of the amount of revenue the state would take in from regulated gambling, unless it would be more than what would be generated at home. That was a little over $40 million a year by mid-2028.
That said, about half of the states allow mobile or online sports betting American Gaming Association. As the nation’s ninth largest state, North Carolina is attractive to wagering operators and pro sports franchises that can stand to make a financial profit.
While Christian conservatives and liberal Democrats in the House voted down sports betting legislation last year, Gambling interests have been very successful this year. Anti-gambling forces continued to speak in committee on Wednesday.
“North Carolina can expect tens of thousands more of our state’s citizens and their families to fall victim to gambling addiction if this bill is enacted into law,” said John Rustin with the North Carolina Family Policy Council.