Will North Carolina Fully Legalize Sports Betting?

With A Bill Picking Up Momentum, The Senate Is Poised For Debate

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With sports betting legalization sweeping through the states, North Carolina may be the next to get in on the action. However, with limited access to sports betting in the state currently relegated to casinos, North Carolina only has one location in the entire territory where you can legally bet on sports: Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee.

The gambling establishment opened up betting on sports in March of 2021, and the overwhelmingly positive response has caused the state to acknowledge the untapped potential of legalized sports gambling. While another location in Kings Mountain, Catawba Two Kings Casino, has plans to offer sports betting, these limited offerings mean North Carolinians’ legal opportunities to wager on sports are few and far between. 

This often results in illegal sports betting, a widespread issue in many states that choose to continue their prohibition on legitimate gambling options. But one lawmaker in North Carolina, senator Jim Perry, has a solution. Senator Perry has drafted a bill he believes will help both the state and the citizens of North Carolina.

Senate Bill 688 To The Rescue

Senate Bill 688 aims to change North Carolina’s outdated sports betting laws. The 17-page bill, currently under review, would legalize online and in-person gambling on sports, with a limited number of provisional licenses issued by the state. According to the wording of the bill, Any sports governing body on whose sporting events are wagered upon is authorized to partner with a sports betting operator. 

More simply put, this means a resident could attend a Carolina Panthers game and legally bet on that game at a designated terminal within the stadium. The bill would also pave the way for online sports betting services like DraftKings to operate within its borders legally. However, the bill as of yet does not include language pertaining specifically to their operation. 

Sports gambling is currently legal at one location in North Carolina: Harrah’s.

Though the legislation has seen slow movement through the senate, the recent approval of a legislative committee hearing is a good sign of ratification in the near future. The bill’s main sponsors expect the statehouse to put forth changes, but the main aim of the legislation will remain the same: full legalization of sports betting.

Support For The Bill Grows Stronger

With Senator Jim Perry speaking of a large amount of caucus support for the bill, many senate republicans see the valuable tax dollars sports betting could bring into their state. The senator also spoke about the current network of illegal sports betting and a desire to legitimize a harmless practice already taking place throughout his state and bolster North Carolina’s gaming taxes in the process.

Co-sponsoring the bill and offering bi-partisan support is fellow North Carolina senator Paul A Lowe of Forsyth county. Senator Lowe echoed Perry’s call to action in combating illegal gambling, citing North Carolinians’ ability to decide for themselves what they do with their hard-earned money. 

Spectrum Gaming Group, a gambling consultation firm, estimates that North Carolina could generate $367 million from sports betting within five years if they passed such a bill. The same firm also believes that illegal gambling is a $2 Billion industry, $538 million of which could be collected in state taxes if said gambling was legal. These tax dollars could go towards helping North Carolina’s struggling education system and many other crucial sectors in its underserved counties. 

Resolution Grows Close

But will this pressure from bill supporters and the promise of millions in tax revenue be enough? The objections so far seem to rest entirely on moral grounds, with some in the senate citing worries of addiction or “degenerate gambling.” But as time passes and advocates like Senator Perry make their case, more and more of the republican-dominated senate is switching sides.  

In July, he gained the support of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and those arguing for the bill have solid rebuttals to the legislation’s detractors. Much of the supporters’ counter-argument lies in the fact that this gambling will occur either way and currently does illegally. In addition, underground sportsbooks already exist in the state and contribute nothing to North Carolina in taxes. Proponents of the bill argue that money could be improving the state instead of contributing to its crime statistics. 

Another counter-argument is the existence of the state’s lottery. Senator Perry has argued that this state-sanctioned gambling is not a far cry from sports betting, and his bill would in fact just be expanding upon the state’s existing lottery system. With increasing bi-partisan support, the hope that citizens will soon have open access to sports betting grows stronger. As the bill is slated for debate on the Senate floor, North Carolina sports fans will hold their breath and wait for the state’s decision. 

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