After a nearly two-month wait in the state Senate, sources indicate North Carolina’s online sports betting bill, House Bill 347, should start moving very soon.
The prolonged holding period came primarily because of the crossover deadline that required the upper chamber to advance any legislation originating there to the House before considering bills that had already crossed from the House to the Senate. The battle over abortion and the state budget also have taken up a lot of lawmakers’ time.
Now that we’re past that, Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) spokesperson Nathan Click said its lobbyists “expect movement on HB 347 within a week or two.”
Senate caucus and possible movement next week
Like Click, Matthew Kredell, senior lead writer at PlayUSA, sees movement on HB 347 next week at the earliest.
“The next step for North Carolina sports betting,” Kredell said, “is for Senate Republicans to caucus on the issue, which won’t happen until at least next week.”
The Senate Republican caucus will likely decide the issue’s priority and coordinate actions for the bill in the coming weeks. Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, led North Carolina’s previous attempt at sports betting legalization in the Senate. He also appears to be the lead candidate for that job this session.
WRAL reported Wednesday that Senate leader Phil Berger also cemented the idea that the bill would be in committee next week, suggesting that Senate Republicans will likely caucus early in the week.
Ches McDowell, a lobbyist for North Carolina’s pro sports teams, confirmed that timeline to NCSharp via email. McDowell indicated that Berger expects the bill to move next week and that “it will be a similar path to the House” in terms of the committees it will hit.
For reference, HB 347 went through the House Commerce Committee, Finance, Judiciary I and Rules and Calendaring.
Amendments possible, complicating the pathway to legalization
After last session, when a similar North Carolina sports betting bill (Senate Bill 688) cleared the North Carolina Senate but came up one vote shy in the House, sports betting proponents probably thought passage of this year’s bill would come down to a nail-biter vote in the House.
Well, that didn’t happen. The House easily passed the bill through four committees before affirming it on the House floor in just over two weeks.
At that point, the prevailing opinion held that sports betting would be a shoo-in if Senate approval was all that stood between HB 347 and Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.
While that opinion still holds, to a degree, the Senate may slow sports betting’s roll if it decides amendments need to be added.
McDowell recently explained to Legal Sports Report that he thinks HB 347 will likely pass the Senate but need to return to the House to reaffirm an amended version.
Such an alteration will certainly slow down the bill, but McDowell is confident the amendments represent only “minor changes” that won’t significantly impair the bill’s progress.
What we can expect from North Carolina’s online sports betting bill
Despite the likelihood of changes in the eyes of some lobbyists, North Carolinians can expect that HB 347 will allow for 10-12 online operator licenses at a tax rate of 14%. However, this could be tinkered with through an amendment.
They can also expect the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Indian Nation, both of which have casinos and retail sportsbooks in the state, to receive an additional license.
While some speculation around legalizing commercial casinos has been thrown around this year, it seems unlikely that an amendment that substantial would be added to HB 347. As Berger remarked to WRAL, North Carolina senators do not plan to include “anything of the sort” in an amendment to sports betting legislation.