No one in the North Carolina Senate was championing the cause for mobile sports betting like Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry.
The Republican lawmaker from Lenoir has endorsed gambling expansion since his election into office in 2019. This year, he helped House Bill 347 – the bill that legalizes online sports betting in North Carolina – cross the finish line in the Senate. It has since passed the House after changes were made to the bill in the Senate and sent to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Those changes, spearheaded by Perry, included expanding the revenue plan for the bill and adding pari-mutuel betting on horse racing. Online sports betting could launch as soon as Jan. 8, 2024, but no later than mid-June 2024.
“I think the reality that we all must accept is that if you don’t have legal sports betting, it just means that you have illegal sports betting,” Perry said. “It doesn’t mean that sports betting is not taking place in your state.”
Who is Sen. Jim Perry?
Born and raised in Kinston, Jim Perry attended South Lenoir High School before becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college. Perry received a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Perry was a recruitment expert in his early professional career, focusing on surgical services and cardiac programs. Perry later enjoyed a career in the dental industry before transitioning to politics. He was selected in 2019 to replace state Sen. Louis Pate, who resigned for health reasons.
Perry calls Lenoir County home. He lives there with his wife, Rebecca, and his three daughters.
Perry’s Sports Betting Agenda
Perry’s endorsement of gambling expansion in the Tar Heel State is nothing new. In April 2021, he sponsored Senate Bill 688 to regulate mobile and retail sports books in North Carolina.
The bill would have added commercial land-based sports wagering venues and mobile sportsbooks to the tribal casinos that allow sports betting.
Perry appeared on the Adam Gold Show in March to share his thoughts on sports betting. In that interview, the senator admitted, “I’m not a sports bettor; I don’t have that skill set.” Yet he believes sports betting expansion should have passed last year.
“Whether or not someone places a bet in Roanoke Rapids or just over the line in Virginia on a North Carolina sports team is irrelevant,” Perry said. “There’s bets on those teams every day in North Carolina, outside of North Carolina … and I feel just sticking your head in the sand and being caught in a bit of a time warp isn’t helpful.
“It’s not only about the tax benefits. It’s about the economic activity, the quality of life, and just the fact that not criminalizing something the average North Carolinian enjoys. Why is it the right of your neighbor to tell you how to spend your money?
“This is your money, and if you see it as entertainment, it’s going on already. Why wouldn’t the state regulate it and make it available and help our sports teams here that are at a huge competitive disadvantage regarding salary cap issues if they don’t have the same opportunities other states do?”
Sports Wagering Voting Record
Regarding sports betting legislation, Perry’s voting record is unassailable. He’s backed every bill that would have led to gambling expansion in North Carolina.
In 2019, Senate Bill 154 was introduced to legalize horse wagering and sports betting at two tribal casinos. It passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Cooper. Perry voted in favor of the bill.
During the 2020 legislative session, several bills relating to sports betting were presented. SB 154 and House Bill 302 pushed for expanding sports betting on tribal grounds. House Bill 929 aimed to regulate bingo, raffles, boxing and the North Carolina State Lottery.
SB 688 was introduced in the House by Rep. Jason Saine in 2021. Perry was one of the bill’s lead authors. It did well, passing the Senate and its first House committee, but it died the following year.
This year, Rep. Saine filed HB 347. The House approved the bill March 28 and sent it to the Senate. Perry offered an amendment with changes to HB 347 that the House agreed with before it was sent to Cooper on Friday.
Photo: Courtesy of North Carolina General Assembly