North Carolina Sports Betting On Life Support As Legalization Momentum Slows Nationwide

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North Carolina sports betting legislation was sacked by the state House (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Mobile sports betting in North Carolina is gasping for air with less than a week left before the General Assembly adjourns for the summer. 

“Until they leave…there is always the chance something can happen,” Brian Murphy, a sports industry reporter in North Carolina, told The Weekly, a sports betting podcast.

Mitch Kokai, a senior policy analyst with the John Locke Foundation, a think tank in North Carolina, said the odds are slim for the bill to return this year.

“No legislation is dead until the final gavel of the session for the year, but this bill is in pretty bad shape,” he told the Winston-Salem Journal.

And Daniel Wallach, a sports attorney who specializes in gambling law, wondered how the Tar Heel State got to this point.

“This seems like self-sabatoge to me,” he said on the podcast. “Why were all these wild cards thrown in so late?”

Sports Betting Collapses On North Carolina House Floor

The North Carolina House moved swiftly this week in an effort to pass sports betting legislation. Senate Bill 688 was passed by the Senate last year. To address concerns from opponents, supporters added Senate Bill 38 to the agenda. SB 38 was a previously unrelated bill that was stripped of its original contents and inserted with sports betting language. 

Both bills cleared three key House committees this week before landing on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.

However, when the floor votes were counted, SB 38 passed 51-50, but SB 688 failed by the same margin. 

A motion to recommit SB 688 so it could be brought up at a later time failed by a much larger margin, effectively killing it for this year. 

“There was a sense, hey we had the debate, we fought about it, we listened to all the lobbyists, we’ve really tried on this, it’s just not going to happen. Drop it. And we will get back to it at some point,” Murphy explained on the podcast. 

To even get to this point where the bills could have passed in tandem, supporters had to make major adjustments. 

Furthermore, an amendment to bar sports betting on all collegiate athletics – and not just North Carolina schools – overwhelmingly was approved and added to SB 38. 

Other measures included additional funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, local sports programs, and a sunset provision on the tax exemption for bonus payouts. 

Murphy noted during the podcast that while lawmakers did approve sports betting under SB 38, as the night wore on, “the momentum was going against sports betting.”

Opponents To Sports Betting Convinced Undecideds In Final Minutes

In his report for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, Murphy spoke to several lawmakers who indicated they changed their minds once the debate started.

“It ended up being consequential,” state Rep. John Ager, told WRAL. “I feel good about it now. I think I did the right thing.”

Those opponents repeatedly questioned backers about the process by which the bills were brought to fruition.

“This is a highly irregular process,” quipped state Rep. Pricey Harrison, during the floor debate. “It’s a problematic bill that doesn’t have support in either chamber or either party.”

Other lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of the bills.

State Rep. Jason Saine, a leading backer of the legislation in the House, defended the process. SB 688 passed the Senate in 2021. It passed the first of four House committees in November. Then languished for six months while conversations were had.

“We’ve tried our best to listen to all sides,” Saine said, noting talks with the governor’s office and other lawmakers, as well as outside advocates and proponents. “It is time to address this issue.”

But the time is now ticking. In 2022, only two states have passed sports betting laws, Kansas and Maine. Wallach noted things seem to be slowing down since the Supreme Court legalized sports betting in 2018. 

“The momentum has slowed,” he said.

About the Author
Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with a focus on legislation and political content. Mary is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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