NC sports betting bill takes first steps out of committee

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The effort to expand sports betting beyond tribal casinos in North Carolina has bipartisan support and is through its first committee hearing, but there is still a long road to go before it might become law.

NC sports betting needs to clear two more House committees

HB347, sponsored by a pair of Democrats and a pair of Republicans, advanced out of the Commerce Committee by a vote of 17-10 on Tuesday. The bill next moves to the Finance Committee and will need to clear the Judiciary Committee as well before heading to the House floor.

The bill would allow 10-12 online sportsbooks, feature a $1 million licensing fee, and would tax sports betting at 14%.

“We know that some believe that gambling is a vice and we should consider legalizing it, but much like we allow for taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, we can use this activity, this revenue from activity that is already happening in our state for good,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Zack Hawkins when introducing the bill to the committee.

Opponents question wisdom of NC gambling expansion

One opponent of the bill was Rep. Deb Butler, who pushed back on the argument that residents are already betting and the state may as well legalize it.

“There are going to be people certainly who are bound and determined to gamble we know that. And if they have the technical skill to manage it and they know how to figure out how to skirt around the pay firewalls and all that sort of stuff, we are powerless to stop it. And if somebody is addicted enough to gambling to drive to Virginia to place a bet, well, they may need to call the hotline immediately,” she argued. “But it is a fiction to suggest that the amount of gambling in this state or anywhere else is fixed and that we’re just shifting it from the illegitimate offshore place that it’s currently located to a regulated and controlled place. We know that gambling is going to exponentially increase in North Carolina if we go down this path.”

Amendments to ban credit cards and college betting fail

Committee members tried to attach two amendments to the bill, both of which failed. One was an amendment to prohibit credit card deposits while the other was an amendment to limit betting purely to professional sports.

Similar to the discussion in the Kentucky House around a similar amendment, concerns about consumer protections prevailed over responsible gambling concerns.

Last year, the effort to legalize sports betting made it to the House floor before losing a close vote. That bill did have an amendment banning college sports wagering successfully attached to it.