North Carolina House approves sports betting bill, final vote looms

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After navigating through a cavalcade of committees, the measure to legalize sports betting in North Carolina hit the House floor on Tuesday afternoon. The bill advanced through its second reading by a 66-45 margin. There is still a third and final floor vote in the House, which will likely take place on Wednesday, but the progress Tuesday was a huge step forward for the legislation.

More money from sports betting will go to NC colleges

Early in the day, HB347 sailed through the House Rules Committee without even a word of debate, perhaps because the group knew this would generate quite a bit of discussion on the House floor.

Tuesday afternoon, the chamber dedicated roughly two hours of discussion to the bill, including eight amendments, all of which failed.

The bill did undergo some changes during the committee process, including solidifying funding for a number of non-FBS and HBCU colleges in North Carolina and reducing the amount of money going to the general fund. The current version of the bill also removes references to horse racing. The general gist of the bill, which is 10-12 online operators taxed at 14% remained largely the same.

Last year, it was an amendment that prohibited betting on college sports that arguably tanked the bill’s hopes in the House, where it failed by a one-vote margin at the same juncture it reached today.

House voted down eight sports betting amendments

Opponents to the bill were the ones attaching the amendments, which ran the gamut from increased fines and fees to resurrecting the college sports betting prohibition. All of the amendments failed and, save for the collegiate ban, did so by a roughly 4-1 margin. Here is a list of all the amendments:

  • College sports betting ban (failed 40-68)
  • Raising the license fee from $1 million to $10 million (failed 27-81)
  • Delaying the launch from 2024 to 2026 (failed 28-81)
  • Olympic and amateur sports betting ban (failed 29-83)
  • Rasing the tax rate to 51% (26-84)
  • Banning promotional credit offers (29-81)
  • Prohibiting athletes’ families from betting on their relatives (26-86)

Opponents say sports betting would bring “thugs” and “prostitutes”

The floor debate on the bill itself consisted primarily of the same opponents that introduced amendments to the bill. They voiced concerns ranging from moral objections to concerns over problem gambling to inviting “thugs” and “prostitutes” into the state.

“The bottom line on this industry is it is a predatory industry. You make your money from preying on the weak, not the man or woman who can afford it. I’d say very few can. Most people gambling can’t afford it,” said Rep. Al Jones.

Jones also argued that online sports betting is just the start of a snowball effect that would expand gambling to include commercial casinos and more.

“It’s going to bring in the loan sharks. It’s going to bring in other vices, prostitution, thugs. They’ll come in because they tend to follow the industry,” he added.

Rep. Pricey Harrison focused on the problem gambling issues connected to gambling expansion in the state. She cited research that 5% of the entire North Carolina population struggles with problem gambling.

“Gambling is as addictive as opioids that we on this floor are fighting. And yet here we’re debating this bill,” she said.

Finally, Rep. John Autry, likely unaware of the AGA revisions to the marketing code of conduct released today, spent time decrying how sportsbooks and colleges have been working together over the past couple of years.

Despite these concerns, there was enough support to propel the bill into a third reading and the most progress the effort has ever seen in the Tar Heel State.