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North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Passes First Hurdle

Legislation That Would Expand Sports Betting Throughout The Entire State Passed The Senate Finance Committee Via Voice Vote

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North Carolina legalized brick-and-mortar sports betting on tribal property in 2019, but there is support building in the legislature to expand it to the rest of the state.

Last April, Sens. Jim Perry, a Republican and Paul Lowe, a democrat, filed SB 688. The bill, which would give the entire state access to sports betting both at retail sites and through online or mobile apps, passed through the Senate Finance committee.

According to local media, it passed via voice vote and while the vote was divided, it was significant enough in favor of the bill to move forward without an actual count.

The bill would allow the state to license an additional 10-12 sportsbooks, as well as online operators. In the bill’s current form, operators would pay an initial $500,000 fee to obtain licensure and would pay an eight percent tax on revenue. Licenses would cost $100,000 annually to be renewed by the state.

The state’s first sportsbook, dubbed “The Book” at Harrah’s Cherokee, opened last March. But given its remote location near the state’s western border with Tennessee, it isn’t a viable option for the overwhelming majority of the state to use on a regular basis.

There are still several hurdles for the bill to clear, including a general vote in the Senate, passage in the House, as well as a signature from Gov. Roy Cooper. But Cooper, a Democrat, told media in July that he believes it’s time to legalize it statewide, making a signature likely.

“With the internet, people are doing it, and it’s very difficult for law enforcement to stop it,” said Cooper nearly a month ago. “So, we might as well control it and get some revenue from it.”

Many Republicans are in favor of sports betting expansion to help generate revenue for cash-strapped state coffers. Perry estimates his bill would generate between $40 and $50 million in annual tax revenue and could do so without raising taxes on its citizens.

There will likely be a public hearing on the bill later this month, as well as changes to the language throughout the legislative process, but the bill clearly has bipartisan support, making it likely that a similar bill passes in future sessions if this one hits a roadblock.