In a recent interview with Spectrum News, North Carolina-based sports lobbyist Ches McDowell and North Carolina State Representative Jason Saine discussed their reasons for supporting the effort to get a sports betting bill passed in North Carolina.
McDowell represents several sports organizations that favor legalizing sports betting in North Carolina, including the NBA, PGA Tour, MLB, and the Charlotte Hornets. He outlined four reasons the sports betting bill would be advantageous for North Carolina.
He argued legalization would:
- Protect the integrity of sport
- Promote economic development
- Raise revenue for the state
- Stop crime
“North Carolina has an incredibly rich sports heritage,” McDowell said. “Without sports betting, [our] teams are at a disadvantage to other states.”
He emphasized the benefit to the state in terms of economic development in particular. The bill is very pro-business, McDowell said, and can help increase jobs at the North Carolina teams and stadiums. The only sports betting options in North Carolina are two remote retail sportsbooks.
In particular, he highlighted the current provision in the bill that would allow for in-person sports lounges at professional sports facilities that hold over 17,000 people. In other states where such lounges are legal, sports facilities increased jobs and employee hours significantly, McDowell said.
On the issue of stopping crime, analysts agree that banning sports betting doesn’t stop people from finding ways to place bets – whether they do it illegally or simply travel out of state. In turn, illegal betting fuels crime operations that affect people in North Carolina.
North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Shows Mixed Reaction
Spectrum News 1 and IPSOS released a poll recently showing mixed results from North Carolina voters on a bill to legalize mobile sports betting. The poll showed North Carolina voters split three ways:
- 36% are in favor of legalizing mobile sports betting
- 39% are opposed to legalizing mobile sports betting
- 25% are unsure
In another recent poll by North Carolina station WRAL, North Carolina voters were more openly positive about legalization.
WRAL surveyed 2,000 voters about whether they believed online and in-person sports gambling should be legalized and found:
- 52% are in favor of legalizing mobile sports betting
- 28% are opposed to legalizing mobile sports betting
- 19% are unsure
In a somewhat surprising twist, the respondents who favored legalization represented both sides of the political spectrum.
North Carolina Losing Millions In Revenue
Representative Saine emphasized the millions in revenue North Carolina is currently losing to other states. Saine said he believes it has a strong chance of passing for this reason alone.
The state likely would have made a lot of money in tax revenue had it been able to take mobile wagers on the historic Final Four match-up between North Carolina and Duke.
“We’ve got bipartisan support,” Saine said in the Spectrum interview. “Other states are already doing it, and we’re losing revenue to those states. That’s probably the biggest issue for most legislators, whether they really care for it or not. They know that people are going to do it; they’re just doing it in other states and not North Carolina.
“We’re losing millions of dollars to other states right now,” he said. “That’s going into their schools, their roads, their healthcare. It’s more about what we’re losing than necessarily how much we’ll gain.”
When Will North Carolina Sports Betting Launch
A sports betting bill passed the Senate on August 19, 2021. Now it’s in the House. The bill has to move through several committees before coming to a full House vote.
The House Commerce Committee approved the bill in November 2021. However, the next steps have to wait until the 2022 legislative session, which begins in May.
If everything moves forward in the House, even if the bill is signed into law in 2022, it takes some time to get sportsbooks up and running. The bill currently allows for 10-12 sportsbooks in the state. The NC Education Lottery Commission has to accept applications and issue licenses for suitable sportsbooks, which takes time.
The earliest analysts expect sportsbooks to launch in North Carolina is 2023.
AP Photo/Gerry Broome