Some of the proposed changes are major, as they turn an online sports betting bill into a horse-racing one as well.
A bill that would legalize online sports betting sites in the Tar Heel State is already undergoing a makeover in the North Carolina Senate, which is reportedly on track to vote on the legislation next week.
House Bill 347 passed the North Carolina House of Representatives in March and the legislation began its journey through the state’s Senate this week, starting with a commerce committee meeting.
Senators amended the bill during the meeting, and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger told WRAL that H.B. 347 is on track for a full Senate vote next week.
“They’re reasonable changes,” Berger reportedly said. “I think they’re changes that make the bill better.”
Whether the House sees the changes the same way is to be determined. The lower chamber blocked the passage of a legal sports betting bill last year, and if the House doesn’t concur with the amendments or hammer out a compromise with senators, the same thing could happen again.
North Carolina sports betting currently consists of in-person wagering at three tribal casinos in the state, which can also take bets on horse racing. Online sports betting is not yet legal, which is what H.B. 347 would change.
Yet the amendments proposed by the Senate are significant. Perhaps the most substantial tweak is that senators are now trying to include pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing in the online sports betting bill.
The House version of H.B. 347 was mum about the ponies; the current Senate version would allow for the licensing and regulation of advance deposit wagering (ADW). Operators like TwinSpires could submit an application and a $1-million fee and potentially start offering pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing in North Carolina.
ADW licensees would have to pay an annual fee of 1% of their total handle in the state. Residents would have to be 21 or older to wager, the same age limit proposed for online sports betting.
Furthermore, the North Carolina State Lottery Commission would be tasked with adopting rules for horse racing, including for previously run races. In other words, the legislation now provides for historical horse racing machines, which could only be hosted by a live horse racing track, if one is built.
“It’s a way to combine and bet on past races,” Sen. Jim Perry said during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “But all of this is related to horse racing.”
The proposed change is a major one, as it turns a purely online sports betting bill into a horse-racing one as well. But there are also tweaks the Senate is trying to make to the sports betting-related parts of the legislation.
On the tax side, the Senate is proposing to bump up the state’s haul to 18% of revenue from the 14% approved by the House. The Senate does not want to allow operators to deduct any free bets or promotions from taxable revenue either, which the House legislation had proposed, albeit only until 2027.
Both the House and Senate versions of H.B. 347 provide for “places of public accommodation” at or near professional sporting venues, where wagers can be placed. Exactly how those wagers would be placed differs between the two houses. The House proposed using the mobile sportsbook accounts of players to make the bets, whereas the Senate is now aiming to allow straightforward retail sportsbooks at the venues.
“Bettors could place their sports wagers anywhere in the State via their interactive account, however, interactive sports wagering operators must geolocate their sports bettors at the time the sports wager is initiated to determine that the sports bettor is in North Carolina and not on tribal lands,” an analysis of the latest version of the bill states. “Bettors could also place their sports wagers at a permanent or temporary place of public accommodation associated with a sports facility.”
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