By Johnny Kampis
The N.C. House will take up sports betting legislation after a bill to expand wagers statewide passed in the Senate last week.
Senate Bill 688 was read for the first time in the House on Tuesday, Aug. 24. The legislation was then referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.
The passage in the Senate was no certainty, as senators questioned aspects of the legislation, primarily that easy-to-place sports wagers on mobile phones could lead to gambling problems for residents of the state. S.B. 688 would expand sports betting beyond the sportsbooks in the two casinos operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to professional sports venues and online operators.
The final tally of the bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, was 26-19. While a member of the GOP may have sponsored the legislation, it passed thanks to Democratic support. Democrats voted 17-4 for S.B. 688, while Republicans voted 15-9 against it.
The legislation passed with an amendment that would require the N.C. Lottery Commission, which would regulate sports betting, to give $1 million to the state Department of Health and Human Services for a gambling addiction program.
“Since we have had members express sincere concerns about the impact that gambling may have on some individuals, we wanted to get out in front of that issue and provide a little comfort for it,” Perry said.
Perry noted during committee hearings that many residents already place bets through offshore operators, where they have no protection from unscrupulous operators. He said some North Carolina residents cross state lines to make bets in Tennessee and Virginia, bordering states that have already legalized sports betting.
S.B. 688 would authorize up to a dozen licenses, and the state would tax revenue at 8%, among the lowest such rates in the U.S. among the two dozen states that have legalized sports betting. Half of the estimated $24 million in annual revenue would go to the state general fund, while half would go to a new fund created to promote events and tourism.