NC sports game progresses in House as session wraps up

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An end-of-session effort to license and regulate sports betting in North Carolina continued Tuesday at the State House, nearly a year after a measure that would make sports betting legal was approved by the Senate.

A divided House Judiciary Committee voted for two bills — one the exact same bill that passed the Senate and another that makes changes to that proposal.

The changes are the product of negotiations between lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, a key lawmaker said. Representatives from major sports leagues, North Carolina-based professional franchises and casino operators have also been involved in the broader legislation.

“We had…a ton of other people involved in it, and it was slow and a lot of talking. This is an individual issue and some are comfortable some are not,” said Sen. Jim Perry, a Lenoir County Republican who leads gambling legislation, both of which have were adopted by the committee by 6 votes to 3.

The legislative maneuver — passing two bills instead of amending the original Senate measure — reflects the unusual nature of the gambling issue in a Republican-controlled General Assembly where social conservatives still have a lot of clout. Democratic support will be needed for sports betting to be legalized.

The two-bill strategy also means the Senate, where more than half of Republicans voted against the original measure last August, would no longer be required to vote on the main bill.

After two more committee meetings, the bills could reach the House floor later this week.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has said he is ready to sign sports betting legislation that has been brought before him. The idea is advancing as legislative leaders insist they wrap up their annual business session around July 1.

Since the Senate bill passed a House commerce panel last November, sports betting proponents have made significant changes to the revised package, including higher corporate tax rates and fees. of games that get one of the most prized operator licenses in the state.

The North Carolina Education Lottery Commission would still issue between 10 and 12 interactive sports betting operator licenses as well as vendor and service provider licenses.

Licensees could set up online apps so people inside state lines can play on their phones starting in January.

The updated legislation adds out-of-state horse racing to the list of professional and college sports that can be bet on. And NASCAR tracks are identified among the types of professional sports venues that might have in-person betting at or near the venue.

License applications and renewals would be much higher than the measure proposed by the Senate. A sports betting company would have to pay a $1 million application fee for an initial five-year license and renewals, for example.

The package would also require interactive sports betting operators to pay a 14% lien tax based on gross betting revenue less player winnings and other deductions. This removes an 8% tax on adjusted gross earnings that was in the Senate measure.

After expenses have been paid to the Lottery Commission and the Department of Revenue and $2 million per year for problem gambling programs, the remaining net proceeds would be distributed among state coffers and a special fund designed to attract sporting events and attractions in the state.

Interest in sports betting among states took off after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Twenty states and the District of Columbia now offer mobile sports betting, including Virginia and Tennessee, according to the American Gaming Association, while 28 states and DC have them. kind of bet in person.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened on-site betting operations in 2021 at its two casinos in far western North Carolina thanks to prior legislation.

Proponents of sports betting regulation in North Carolina say such betting already occurs through offshore online websites or local bookmakers, and that it is best for the state to control the activity and tax.

But critics say the additional revenue that state sanctioning of sports betting would create pales in comparison to the negative effects on family and society that rising numbers of gambling addicts will cause.

“These gambling bills conflict with my values,” said Rep. Abe Jones, a Wake County Democrat, former judge and committee member. “I’m not going to use my vote from this place to support the game. I think that’s wrong.”

Republican leaders used a house rule to add additional GOP spots on the panel so bills could pass, even if some other GOP committee members were absent.

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