Imagine living in North Carolina with legal sports betting and being unable to bet on college sports, including games involving in-state schools. No betting on North Carolina, North Carolina State or Duke basketball or football.
College sports betting was one of the contentious items in North Carolina’s sports betting bill in 2022. It was soon amended out of Senate Bill 38.
Lawmakers who filed House Bill 347 this week, however, made sure college sports betting, including on in-state teams, was in the bill.
Hopefully, this is the last March Madness without legal online sports betting in North Carolina.
Sports betting revenue supports college athletics
It was surprising last year that college sports betting was taken out of the legislation. State tax revenue from online sports betting would have supported athletic programs at Historically Black Colleges or Universities and other small schools, according to the bill.
You wouldn’t have been able to bet on college sports, but the money raised from sports betting would have supported college sports.
The sports betting bill filed earlier this week also earmarks funds to support college sports.
It was an amendment from Rep. John Autry, D-Mecklenburg, last year that stripped college sports betting from Senate Bill 38. He voted against the bill. His current term ends Jan. 1, 2025.
“I don’t believe the state should be sanctioning gambling, and, especially, including college sports,” Autry said last year, according to WFAE 90.7 in Charlotte.
We’ll see once hearings begin on the online sports betting bill whether college sports betting remains.
Neighboring states allow college sports betting
Tennessee and Virginia, which border North Carolina, allow college sports betting – to some extent.
All college sports betting, including on in-state schools, is allowed in Tennessee. Its online sports betting market went live in November 2020.
Betting could be heavy during March Madness since Tennessee, a No. 4 seed, and Memphis, a No. 8 seed, are both in the men’s basketball national tournament.
Virginia, which launched online sports betting in January 2021, allows betting on college sports, but not on games involving in-state college teams. So there was no betting this March Madness on No. 4 seed Virginia, which was upset Thursday by 13th-seeded Furman, or No. 12 seed Virginia Commonwealth.
If college sports betting again becomes a contentious issue in this year’s North Carolina Legislature, there could be room to compromise. Lawmakers could allow overall college sports betting, but ban wagering on in-state schools.
Or it could do what Massachusetts, which launched online sports betting March 10, did. It allows college sports betting but bans wagering on in-state teams unless they are in a tournament.
Optimism for bill passage this year
There is bipartisan support for House Bill 347 as the sponsors include two Republicans and two Democrats.
“This bill is a bipartisan bill, and we’ve learned a good bit from both sides about some of the tweaks that needed to happen,” Jason Saine, R-Lincolnton and sponsor of the legislation, said before filing the bill, according to WRAL-TV in Raleigh. “We’ve worked to accommodate those concerns, and we believe we have a bill that can do better than pass. It can get broad support from both caucuses.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, supports online sports betting. He signed the bill allowing retail sports betting at three tribal casinos in the state.
So will bettors be able to wager on North Carolina teams in next year’s March Madness? And will sports fans be able to access NC sports betting promos as legal state sportsbooks compete to capture their custom and loyalty. Stay tuned.