RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Now that a bill to legalize mobile sports betting in North Carolina has been filed, the state House of Representatives could vote on it as soon as next week, according to one of the lead sponsors of the legislation.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House filed a bill Monday that’s substantially similar to a bill that failed to pass the House by a single vote last year.
Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) said he’s heard from some lawmakers who have changed their minds about the issue and are willing to vote in favor of it this time. Additionally, about 25 percent of the members in the House and Senate are new to the General Assembly following last year’s election.
“Particularly with some new members, too, that we’ve added in the House, they’re really excited about this. They understand that we’re losing money to Virginia,” said Saine.
The bill would allow betting on professional, collegiate, amateur and electronic sports. It would take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. The state currently allows betting on sports in person at the three tribal casinos.
While the mobile sports betting bill has bipartisan support, it’s also faced bipartisan opposition from some who worry about issues such as problem gambling and whether the state will take in as much revenue as it could from legalization.
“The revenue is one issue. The integrity of sports is another. Do we enjoy sports because of the athletic competition or now will it be because you can make money off of it?” asked Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), who was an Olympic swimmer. “The state is dealing in vice here. And, we’re creating another monumental problem in addition to substance abuse and alcohol abuse.”
The bill calls for a state commission to grant licenses to between 10 and 12 operators. Those operators would pay a licensing fee of $1 million.
They would be taxed at a rate of 14 percent on gross wagering revenue with deductions for bonuses and promotional credits in the first few years of operating.
Rep. Saine said conservatively it’s estimated the state would generate at least $50 million per year in revenue.
Some critics of the bill have questioned whether the state should be getting more than that.
In Virginia, people wagered almost $511 million in January through mobile sports betting, according to the most recent data from the Virginia Lottery. People who bet won about $463 million. Ultimately, Virginia collected about $6.4 million in taxes that month.
Ches McDowell represents the NBA and several other professional sports organizations pushing for legalization.
“I think if all we do is talk about the actual tax on sports betting, I think we’re missing a lot of the point. One thing that’s impossible to calculate are the income taxes. There’s a significant amount of folks that are going to win,” McDowell said.
“We don’t really want to prolong that another year where those revenues go to other states and fund their roads and fund their schools,” he said. “We get a full-on view of what’s happening in sports betting in North Carolina. We know it’s already happening. This way, we can see it and we can measure it.”
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services would receive $2 million annually for gambling addiction programs; $1 million would go to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation; athletic programs at seven of the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities would each receive $300,000; the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council would receive $1 million for grants.
Of the remaining funding, the bill calls for 60 percent of the revenue to go to the state’s general fund, 30 percent to go to a fund to attract major events and 10 percent to the athletic programs at the HBCUs.
“There are lots of things that are still out there to go get. And, they’re looking for places to host, and we’ve certainly got the notoriety and the airports and the facilities that a lot of these major sporting events are looking for,” said Rep. Saine.
While a similar bill failed in the House last year, it did pass the Senate. Leaders in that chamber expect that would happen this year too if it makes it through the House this time.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has said he supports legalization as well.