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North Carolina will miss out on mobile sports betting this year after the House voted 51-50 against the measure as it appears unlikely the legislature will visit in any of its handful of one-day sessions slated between now and the end of 2022.
SB 688, a bill that would pave the way for up to a dozen online sportsbooks to launch in the Tar Heel State, passed through the Senate on a 26-19 vote back in August 2021. Advocates were optimistic about the bill’s chances of gaining House approval this year. It flew through three committees in the space of 24 hours last month, teeing up a hotly contested hearing on the House floor.
The situation looked promising at one point, but representatives ultimately killed the bill by the slenderest of margins on June 22. The legislative window all but slammed shut eight days later, essentially dashing hopes of legalizing online sports betting in North Carolina for another year.
It means that sports bettors will need to wait until at least 2023 to place quick, convenient bets via mobile apps and websites such as BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel.
Reconsideration Vote Rejected
The North Carolina House also rejected a reconsideration vote to send the online sports betting bill back to the Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee.
A watered-down companion bill, SB 38, passed on a 51-50 House vote, but it is dependent upon SB 688 passing, which did not happen. SB 38 could be amended and rejuvenated as a standalone piece of legislation, but that will take some time when next year’s session opens.
A handful of opponents were fierce in their criticism of both bills during the heated debate, citing moral objections and even likening sports betting to prostitution, human trafficking and exploitation despite its widespread acceptance across the US. Despite the heated rhetoric from some, there still seemed to be enough votes to pass – until it evaporated at the end.
North Carolina is the ninth largest state by population, and it would become one of the leading sports betting markets in the country.
Many states legalized sports betting to stop residents from crossing over the border into a neighboring state with a regulated market. That has created a domino effect across the country.
Two of North Carolina’s neighbors – Virginia and Tennessee – have legal mobile sportsbooks, but South Carolina has resisted efforts to join them, easing any pressure on North Carolina to follow suit – for now.
Retail Sportsbooks Remain the Only Option
North Carolina legalized retail sports betting in 2019. The measure passed the Senate on a 43-7 vote and the House then voted 90-27 in favor of it, sending SB 154 to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk to be signed into law.
The Tar Heel State’s first two retail sportsbooks arrived in May 2021. Both are controlled by Caesars following its takeover of William Hill last year. They are located on tribal land in the western part of the state, at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River.
The retail sportsbooks are impressive, but you would need to drive for several hours to reach them if you are in the state’s biggest cities – Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham and so on.
That is impractical if you want to place a quick bet on a football, basketball or baseball game, so many North Carolinians still use unregulated and illegal offshore sites or neighborhood bookies.
“The black market does exist, and people are already gambling, but there is no regulation and there’s no help for those people,” Rep. Wesley Harris, a Mecklenburg County Democrat who supports online sports betting, told the Associated Press after SB 688 failed to clear the House.
Always gamble responsibly. All licensed and legal operators in the United States have resources available to bettors, including educational guides on how to spot problem gaming, links to support services and tools to self-exclude for a set period of time. Support is available at the National Council on Problem Gaming, 1-800-GAMBLER and American Addiction Centers. Be sure to only wager on gambling sites that are licensed and regulated by the gaming regulatory body in your state. That ensures games are fair, bets are honored, customers’ funds are secure and that there are legal protections for the consumer.
Sports betting and gambling are not legal in all locations. Be sure to comply with laws applicable where you reside.
Martin Green spent five years working at William Hill before becoming a journalist in 2009. He began working as a sports writer and professional sports handicapper in 2014.