Sports betting legislation “in the mix” for the remainder of the legislative session

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2021

By Johnny Kampis
Carolina Journal

While the N.C. Senate didn’t handle sports betting legislation before the Fourth of July break, there’s still hope of legal wagers in the state outside of the two Cherokee casinos.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said recently that he expects lawmakers to discuss sports betting legislation later this session. The legislature focused on such issues as mask requirements in schools and the teaching of critical race theory before taking its holiday break but could take up the bills on sports bets later this month.

Berger told WRAL that senators still have questions about the legislation, Senate Bill 688, but he expects that lawmakers will discuss the measure soon to determine if they “can get a bill that actually can garner support or not.”

“I just can’t say at this time. It is one of those things that, as we’re trying to plan for the next couple of weeks, it’s one of the things that’s in the mix,” Berger said.

His legislative assistant, Robin Braswell, did not immediately respond to a query from Carolina Journal on the issue.

SB 688 was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations on April 8 after a first reading and has sat there since.

Companion sports betting legislation, House Bill 631, remains up for debate, but the Senate bill will take priority. Sponsor Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, pulled that bill from a committee calendar because he wants the focus on the Senate bill.

Both bills would establish an 8% tax rate on sports betting revenue. They would permit 12 online licenses to be issued and allow facilities that host professional events with attendance greater than 17,000 to receive licenses. That includes such sports venues that are home to teams like the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets.

Jon Sanders, research editor and senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, previously told Carolina Journal he likes that the state is considering opening up sports betting to the free market, but he’s also concerned a proposed fund in the legislation intended to promote tourism could become an incentives free-for-all.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened sports books at their two casinos in Cherokee and Murphy earlier this year after the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs gave its OK to a revised gaming compact between the tribe and the state.