A North Carolina sports betting bill took another step forward today after getting a thumbs-up from the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 688, sponsored by Republican Sen, Majority Whip Jim Perry of Lenoir and Democrat Sen. Paul Lowe of Forsyth, was approved by a voice vote of the panel. It now moves to the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee, where lawmakers will decide whether or not to advance the bill further.
Should it become law, SB 688 would authorize the North Carolina State Lottery Commission to issue 10 to 12 “interactive” licenses total for operation of sports betting online, by phone, and at professional sports and professional golf venues or their facilities — a move that would open up sports bettor and business opportunities at key venues like Spectrum Center or Bank of America Stadium.
Bettors would be able to place wagers on pro, college, and esports, plus any other event approved by the commission. Betting on amateur sports would also be allowed, as long as they aren’t youth sports.
SB 688 was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Aug. 4. Until then, it had been stalled in the legislature since April.
Senate Judiciary Action on SB 688
SB 688 must be approved by all committees that have jurisdiction over sections of the proposed law.
The stop in the Senate Judiciary Committee was required due to the bill’s prohibitions on underage wagering, betting collusion, and other violations, including giving false information on a licensing application.
Sen. Michael Lee of New Hanover — who, like Perry, is a Republican — raised concerns about sportsbook advertising to anyone under the legal betting age of 21. SB 688 would prohibit sportsbook advertising to anyone under age 21, but Lee questioned how that could be enforced, especially when a sportsbook logo may be visible throughout an entire game.
“It seems like it’s hard to say you’re not advertising to someone under the age of 21 if you have some of those unique circumstances. It seems like an area in which we may want to look at closing the loop up a little bit,” said Lee.
Senate Judiciary Co-Chair Norman Sanderson of Carteret, also a Republican, didn’t seem to share Lee’s concern on the issue.
“It would be very difficult to build a wall and keep all the 20-year-olds on one side and the 21-year-olds on the other side,” said Sanderson.
What Next For SB 688
The bill now goes to the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee, which is co-chaired by Sen. Chuck Edwards.
Edwards’ support is uncertain. The Buncombe Republican raised questions today as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the corrections impact of SB 688, especially as it relates to gambling addiction.
He seemed concerned that there were no numbers available on, per Edwards, “those folks that may fall victim to being addicted to gambling and perform any illegal act subsequent to that.”
Firm opposition to the bill came from testimony before the committee by North Carolina Family Policy Council President John Rustin, who also testified against SB 688 last week.
Lowe has said some pushback is expected.
“There are some individuals who think this is a terrible and a bad thing,” Lowe told North Carolina’s CBS17 last week. But, he added, the chance of passage in this legislative session is good.