North Carolina sports betting opportunities are coming ever closer, as the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee favorably referred a bill to the Finance Committee.
HB347, which passed through the House by a 64-45 measure at the end of March, included several amendments in the committee but was passed through to the finance committee as sports betting’s chances of legalization in NC reach the final hurdles.
Amendments alter what North Carolina sports betting would look like
The amendments, which were approved by the committee, include a rise in the tax rate from 14% to 18%, the removal of promotional credit deductions from taxable GGR, and the legalization of parimutuel horse race betting.
Parimutuel horse racing was never included in the version of HB347 that passed the House, and it remains to be seen how this will impact any vote on the Senate floor.
Senator Tim Moffitt spoke on behalf of the bill to the committee and noted some of the key reasons for gambling expansion in the state.
Citing black market concerns, Moffitt stated: “Betting on sports in our state is occurring. But in order for us to regulate, it in order for us to tax it and provide a public benefit from those taxes, we have to authorize it first. So this is not legalizing it in as much as it’s taking place.
“This is just recognizing that this practice exists, is going to it has existed since the beginning of time. It’s increasing with access to smartphones and technology. And in order for us to actually regulate it and manage it in our state.”
Vocal opposition refers to crime and “weakness”
Though the bill was eventually passed, there was ample opportunity for campaign groups to voice their opposition to gambling expansion in North Carolina. Voices came from family advocate groups as well as religious groups.
John Ralston, President of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, raised concerns over the increased crimes that could arise from legalized sports betting, explaining: “If this bill is enacted into law, a problem in pathological gambling manifests itself in increases in theft, embezzlement, job loss, personal bankruptcy, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, divorce, and even suicide. This is the human cost of legalized gambling and gambling addiction.”
Reverand Mark Creech, Executive Director of the Christian Action League, told the committee: “(Gambling) appeals to the weakness and worst of what is in all of us. It characteristically promotes the ‘easy come, easy go’ philosophy. It is an expression of recklessness.
“Gambling is not directed by reason or intelligence but depends on feelings of emotion and chance. Gambling quite subtly on perceptively produces a growing callousness to the interest in the well-being of others. We may hitch it to various noble and charitable causes but at its core, the activity undermines service, stewardship, and a strong work ethic.”
What else is in the bill?
HB347 is largely unchanged in that it would allow between 10-12 online sports betting licenses and would allow for sportsbook lounges at NASCAR tracks, large golf courses and pro team facilities of the MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, and NWSL franchises.
Many amendments were attempted in the House, including the raising of the tax rate to 51%, but these measures were voted down.
The bill is largely similar to a bill in 2022, which failed in the Senate at the 11th hour, but there have been hopes that some of the issues from last year could be ironed out in 2023 and that North Carolina could join Kentucky and Vermont in legalizing sports betting this year.
After favorable approval, HB347 will be read, debated, and voted on by the finance committee before any potential floor vote. North Carolina’s legislative session ends on August 31.