Thursday was Crossover Day in the North Carolina General Assembly – a soft deadline for all bills to clear at least one chamber – and once it passes, sports betting legislation should pick up speed in the state Senate.
House Bill 347 has been sequestered in the Senate Rules and Operations Committee since March 30. This bill is likely in store for a few Senate committee stops before it advances to the Senate floor. HB 347 cleared four House committees before advancing to the House floor for debate.
With the pressure for Senate bills to clear their originating chamber alleviated, NCSharp expects HB 347, which would legalize online sports betting in North Carolina, to receive Senate attention soon.
Rules and Operations Committee the first Senate stop for HB 347
The Senate Committee on Rules and Operations, where HB 347 currently sits, has many duties pertaining to the calendaring and distribution of Senate bills.
In the case of HB 347, the Rules and Operations Committee will decide on the most relevant standing Senate committee to send the bill for initial consideration.
In the House, the bill landed in the Finance Committee first, then Commerce, then the Judiciary 1 Committee before ending in the House Rules Committee for placement on the House floor calendar. While that sounds like a long and tortuous path, it took only seven days for the bill to clear all four committees and advance to the House floor.
The bill will likely follow a similar pathway in the Senate.
HB 347 picks up where previous legislation left off
In 2021, Senate Bill 688, a similar piece of sports wagering legislation focusing on online sports betting, passed the Senate on a 26-19 vote. The bill advanced through House committee in early 2022 but was eventually voted down in the House by a single vote.
With one incumbent, Sen. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, losing his Senate seat to a Republican in the 2022 election, the Senate makeup has not changed much since it last debated sports betting. Moreover, sports betting legislation has seen bipartisan support in North Carolina in its prior iterations.
With a swift passage in the House under its belt, HB 347 now appears poised to arrive at Gov. Cooper’s desk with full approval of the General Assembly.
However, should the Senate decide to make changes to the bill, including any amendments, the bill would then be sent back to the House for concurrence – a process of agreeing upon changes made to the original bill in the non-originating chamber.
The House voted down 19 total amendments to the bill already, and senators may take their cues from that fact in trying to expand the bill’s scope via altered tax rates, fees and promotional deductions (Find out about all the latest NC sports betting promos here).
If the Senate were to make changes and the House did not concur, all is not lost. A conference committee comprising members of both chambers could be arranged by the speaker of the House and the president pro temp of the Senate. This committee would ideally try to reach common ground to allow the bill to go forward.
However, if a conference committee could not find common ground, the bill would likely be dead for the session.
North Carolina on track for a Jan. 8 launch
Almost four months remain for the Assembly to pass sports betting legislation, ample time considering how quickly the bill moved through the House.
Further, with a planned launch date of Jan. 8, 2024, even if North Carolina waits until late in the session to address sports wagering legislation, the state will leave itself a decent runway to set up and launch the system.