Online NC sports betting is just a few steps away from legalization, and the bill now has one less hurdle attached to it.
The Senate Finance Committee advanced the online North Carolina sportsbooks bill, HB 347, Tuesday afternoon. The Rules Committee sent it forward Tuesday as well, setting up for a potential final Senate vote Thursday following a second reading vote Wednesday.
The House passed HB 347 in March, 64-45. If passed by the Senate, the House must agree to multiple changes before heading to Gov. Roy Cooper.
With the governor’s signature, the legislation would go into effect in January 2024 and require a launch date within 12 months.
Questionable addition stripped
On Tuesday, legislators removed language that opened up the possibility of legal historical horse racing (HHR) in North Carolina. The action smooths over a potential speed bump that could have prevented final passage.
Senators added the language that could have lead to live horse racing and slot machine-like HHR devices in North Carolina in a committee last week. The addition was part of an amendment expanding the legislation to legalize online bets on horse racing.
While the language would require a horse racing track to be built in North Carolina before HHR machines could be set up, it was met with plenty of opposition, including by North Carolina tribes, which hold gaming exclusivity in the state and run the three in-person sportsbooks open in North Carolina. Multiple industry sources told LSR lawmakers would strip the additional horse racing language.
New NC sports betting amendments
Senators also added an amendment Tuesday that includes technical language fixes and some language to help the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission regulate the industry. The most significant piece of that was the addition of a 12-month time frame following the bill’s effective date of January 8, 2024.
Last week, the Commerce & Insurance Committee raised the sports betting revenue tax rate to 18% from 14% and eliminated deductions for promotional credits. The North Carolina legislature requires two Senate votes for bills that include tax rates, which is why HB 347 will likely be on the Senate floor twice this week.
The Senate passed sports betting legislation last year before it fell short in the House by one vote.
NC sports betting set up
After the Senate bill fell short in the House last session, Rep. Jason Saine led the charge this year, championing essentially the same legislation. The proposal would legalize up to 12 online NC sportsbooks.
The legislation also allows in-person sportsbooks at professional sports venues in North Carolina. Professional teams in the state, like the Carolina Hurricanes and Charlotte Hornets, have advocated for sports betting legalization.
Tax revenue from sports betting goes to various pots, including gambling addiction education and treatment programs and the Division of Parks and Recreation. Lawmakers also earmarked tax dollars for multiple university athletic departments throughout the state.