North Carolina online sports betting legislation began its trek through the state Senate on Wednesday when an amended bill received a favorable vote in the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee.
Wednesday’s committee appearance was the first of three for House Bill 347 before it can reach the full Senate. Sponsored in the House by Rep. Jason Saine, HB 347 would legalize online sports betting in North Carolina.
Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, who is stewarding the bill through the Senate, presented the bill to the committee and proposed a few key amendments, affecting the tax rate, promotional deductions and parimutuel betting.
Senate changes would allow horse racing and increase revenue
Perry began the discussion by explaining the Senate changes to the House version of the bill. Those changes included:
- A pathway for retail and online parimutuel horse racing
- Increasing the tax rate on operators from 14% to 18%
- Eliminating tax writeoffs for operators’ promotional spending
- Adding UNC-Charlotte to the list of schools funded by the bill
Sen. Tim Moffitt, R-Hendersom, who said he was “pinch-hitting for the House,” took over the presentation of the bill after the amendment with the proposed changes passed the committee.
Senate arguments centered around recognition
Moffitt presented the background on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the 1992 law outlawing sports betting outside of Nevada that was repealed in 2018. He reminded the committee that “we are lagging behind what’s happening in the real world.” What’s happening is the proliferation of sports betting “in more than 30 states plus the District of Columbia.”
A similar bill passed the Senate last session, leading Moffitt to forego a detailed discussion of this bill’s components in favor of a question: “What are we going to do with our regulations when we’ve banned something, but our folks are participating in it and breaking the law.”
Moffitt was referring to people betting with illegal offshore sports books or using bookies, which accounts for over 20% of all bets placed in the country, per a recent American Gaming Association report on the fifth anniversary of PASPA’s revocation.
Moffitt indicated that passing HB 347 would “catch us up with where we are, recognize (that sports betting is going on) and tax it for public benefit.”
Opposition focused on community decay
North Carolina Family Policy Council President and Executive Director John Rustin argued that “decades of research shows that the more gambling is advertised, the more people will gamble. Three to 5% will develop pathological addictions.”
Rustin contended that legalizing sports betting would “degrade our state’s rich heritage of college sports” by “allowing colleges to enter into agreements with state-sanctioned bookies to get a cut of the money.”
Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, presented a more philosophical case for community decay, stating that gambling “appeals to the weakness and worst of what is in all of us. It is an expression of recklessness, and it promotes a growing callousness in the caring for others.”
Matt Floyd, of the People’s Baptist Church, added his perspective from the pulpit, where he’s seen “marriages and families ruined by gambling.”
HB 347 favorably reported to Finance Committee
The Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee reported HB 347 favorably in a discussion that lasted no more than 15 minutes.
The bill now moves to the Senate Finance Committee. If reported favorably, it should move on to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee, where it will be considered for Senate floor debate.
If HB 347 passes the Senate, it will have to return to the House for concurrence on the changes made in the Senate. Some of the changes in the Senate were already proposed and voted down in the House.