North Carolina’s sports betting plans are currently in limbo, but major progress was made this week.
On Thursday, the North Carolina House approved a piece of legislation that calls for a study of the “feasibility” of regulating sports wagering in the state. A newly formed North Carolina Gaming Commission would look at many issues surrounding the activity, including the “positive and negative impacts” of sports betting, and potential revenues and state expenditures from allowing it.
Though the legislation, SB 574, doesn’t explicitly mention mobile sports wagering platforms, the study provisions would allow for a look into whether or not internet betting is a good fit and feasible for North Carolina. There’s already a strong case to be made that it is, given the fact that offshore, unregulated platforms currently take deposits from some sports bettors in North Carolina.
The North Carolina Gaming Commission would be required to report its findings, including any proposed legislation, to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the State Lottery on or before Feb. 15, 2020.
SB 574 passed the Senate by a 44-1 vote in early May, and it cleared the House by an 86-26 vote on Thursday. The Senate needs to concur on some of the changes to the bill before it moves to the governor. It doesn’t appear that the bill will run into any brick walls at this point in the legislative process.
Tribal sports betting bill
Separately, a bill on the table this session calls for allowing the state’s two tribal casinos to add sportsbooks. The bill, SB 154, advanced to the House floor this week, and it could have received a vote on Thursday morning as well. SB 154 didn’t receive a vote before the House went on recess until Monday.
The bill was filed in February and cleared the Senate by a 43-7 vote in April.
SB 154 would not allow the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to offer online/mobile sports wagering throughout the state. It’s worth noting that SB 574 calls for looking at the “effects” of sports betting at the tribal casinos (assuming it’s authorized). The newly formed NCGC would have no regulatory power or oversight over the tribal casinos.
North Carolina doesn’t have any commercial casinos.
SB 154 is of relatively little importance to North Carolina. According to a report from The News & Observer, the legislation is expected to generate between $1 mm and $1.5 mm in additional annual revenue for state coffers. That’s not a ton of money.
State authorization of sports wagering, potentially under the North Carolina Education Lottery, which already offers gambling over the internet, could be far more lucrative.
Under state-of-the-art online/mobile adoption, North Carolina has the potential to see about $7 billion in annual sports betting handle, according to a 2017 study from Oxford Economics. That potentially could translate to tens of millions of dollars flowing to the state.