The North Carolina sports betting expected to be introduced soon is nearly identical to the bills that made their way through the process last year.
There is one big difference, however, and it could be the reason it succeeds in 2023: there is only one bill instead of two. That should make legalizing sports betting in North Carolina a lot easier.
One sports betting bill is better than two
Some lawmakers said last year they were confused about considering two bills, one called a trailing bill that increased the revenue tax. Once Senate Bill 688 failed by one vote in the House last year, the trailing bill, Senate Bill 38, was irrelevant.
Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, who has sponsored sports betting legislation, told PlayUSA earlier this month that he expects his bill to pass this year.
“Taking legislators at their word, our vote count is in a good place and won’t be nearly as close as the vote count we had last year,” Saine said. “Some new members who have come in also are encouraging. I don’t think it will be nearly as contentious.”
All of the details this year being contained in one bill makes it easier for lawmakers to digest. There also are new faces in the House and Senate, as Saine said, possibly giving it a better chance for approval.
Here are some key components of this year’s bill, according to a draft of the bill, and how they compare to those in last year’s legislation.
A dozen online sportsbooks, plus retail sports lounges
Like last year, there should be 10 to 12 mobile licenses available for online sports betting companies.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Nation, which operate three retail sportsbooks in the state, are also eligible for mobile licenses that would not count against the total number available.
Similar to last year’s legislation, professional arenas or stadiums could open sports lounges. The bill permits sports betting lounges at professional sports facilities with a capacity of at least 17,000 and professional golf tournaments with at least 50,000 spectators.
Those eligible include:
- Bank of America Stadium
- Spectrum Center
- PNC Arena
- Charlotte Motor Speedway
- WakeMed Soccer Park
Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, which hosts the Wells Fargo PGA Tour event, could also open a temporary sports lounge on site during a tournament.
North Carolina sports betting tax rate
The final tax rate to operators after amendments last year was 14% on adjusted gross revenue. It remains the same in the legislation that is expected to be introduced soon.
When the bill was first introduced last year, the tax rate was 8%, but lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper wanted that increased, and it ended up at 14% before the bill was defeated.
Keeping a 14% rate in the new bill will generate millions of dollars worth of taxes for North Carolina.
This year’s bill also allows for promotional and bonus tax deductions for a certain amount of time (find out more about NC Sportsbook Promos here). Other states, including Virginia, have done this or are looking to phase out the promotional credits.
In addition to the tax rate, the licensing fee is $1 million, as is the renewal fee after five years. Both are the same as last year’s final bill.
College sports betting gets the green light
This year’s bill allows wagering on North Carolina college teams. It was in last year’s legislation, too, but was quickly amended out of the legislation.
Last year, all college sports betting was eliminated from the bill. This could be the most-contentious issue for the bill during this year’s legislative session.
New Jersey, one of the biggest and most successful sports betting states, allows college sports betting but not on games or events involving its state’s colleges. New Jersey lawmakers tried to add betting on local colleges last year, but the bill was unsuccessful.
It remains to be seen, but North Carolina lawmakers could compromise and keep overall college sports betting in the bill, but limit betting on local college teams as Massachusetts did.
That would mean no betting on UNC basketball for fans in the state.
Massachusetts, launching online sports betting Friday, only allows betting on local teams if they are in a tournament that has four or more teams such as conference basketball tournaments or March Madness. It was a good compromise that helped the bill proceed.
What was interesting about last year’s bill having college sports betting eliminated was that tax revenue from sports betting was earmarked for seven colleges or universities. Under last year’s bill, these Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), would have received tax money to help support athletic programs.
You couldn’t bet on college sports, but money raised by sports betting would support colleges.
Other aspects of this year’s bill are similar to last year’s, including oversight of sports betting (North Carolina Education Lottery), how to fund accounts (credit cards or debit cards are allowed), an attractions fund to help local businesses attract entertainment and sports events and the mandate for sportsbooks to use official league data.
Is 2023 finally the year?
Key lawmakers who support sports betting are optimistic it will make it through this year. They shared similar optimism last year.
Christopher McLaughlin, a professor of public law and government in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said early indications are that the sports bill has a better chance this year.
“I don’t know anything more than I read in the news, but all signs point to smoother sailing for a sports betting bill this year,” McLaughlin said. “Optimistic comments from legislators and the governor suggest that the bill has enough support to pass this year. Of course, betting on what the General Assembly will do is harder than betting on the outcome of a Duke/Carolina basketball game, so who knows?”
One of the critics last year of sports betting, Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, told CBS 17 earlier this year that the General Assembly has changed since last year and new members could be more inclined to support sports betting.
We should know soon enough once the new bill is officially filed in the statehouse.