Online sports gambling efforts are booming after setbacks in NC House :: WRAL.com

Written by Javed Iqbal

– A years-long effort to legalize online sports betting in North Carolina collapsed Wednesday in the General Assembly when Parliament rejected one of two bills that would legalize state practice.

A watered-down version of a bill, Senate Bill 38, obtained preliminary approval by a single vote – but not before lawmakers withdrew all college sports bets from the law. Meanwhile, the underlying bill, Senate Bill 688, was voted down by a narrow margin, leaving the prospect of sports betting in that state.

The 120-member House voted 51-50 to approve Senate Bill 38. The House voted against Senate Bill 688 50-51 and then blocked an attempt to return it to the Rules Committee.

The House must give its final approval to Senate Bill 38 by a second vote, but as written, it is dependent on SB 688. The Senate must also take SB 38 up for agreement before legislation can be sent to Governor Roy Cooper, who has been supportive of sports betting. .

“It’s not completely dead,” the rep said. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, the house’s biggest champion in sports betting.

But Wednesday night was a big blow for supporters, which includes gambling operators and the state’s major professional franchises and sports facilities, including Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes have lobbied for online sports betting, which they see as an additional source of revenue. The large sports facilities would be allowed by law to open sports lounges.

More than 20 other states have approved online sports betting, including Virginia and Tennessee. Based on the amount of efforts in other states, North Carolina was seen as a potential $ 5 billion to $ 6 billion a year market in terms of money efforts.

Following the amendments, the bill allows betting on professional sports, electronic sports and horse racing from electronic devices such as computers, tablets and smartphones. The state will license at least 10 and up to 12 sports betting operators to accept bets from adults in North Carolina.

The legislation is a rare measure that shared both caucuses with Republicans and Democrats who support the bills, and members of both parties who oppose them. SB 688, when it passed last year, divided the Senate in a similar way.

During Wednesday’s house debate, which stretched over 90 minutes, opponents were much sharper with their criticism. Opponents of both parties spoke out against the bill, citing the Bible, calling it morally wrong and warning of major societal costs associated with legalizing gambling.

“This is bad. Clean, simple, downright wrong,” the rep said. Abe Jones, D-Wake. “You can not correct what is wrong because you can not correct it away.”

Said rep. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph: “It’s not worth the money to give our citizens this.”

Rep. John Autry, D-Mecklenburg, was a former associate producer and editor of coaching shows with former North Carolina men’s basketball coaches Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge. He introduced the amendment banning college sports betting, citing a point-shaving scandal involving North Carolina and NC State in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The House then voted to remove all college sports betting from the bill, a major blow to operators in a state known for its devotion to its many college teams. Virginia does not allow gambling on university teams in the state. But the change in Congress would eliminate any college gambling in North Carolina, even on teams not located in the state.

A house committee earlier this week removed bets on amateur sports, broadly defined as international and Olympic competitions, from SB 38.

What’s next?

In a 2018 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to make their own decisions on sports betting. Sports betting is legal in North Carolina, but only in the two Cherokee casinos in the western part of the state. In 2019, representatives from sports betting providers, professional teams and tribes met to start working on mobile sports betting legislation.

Last year, the Senate passed its version. But the bill moved slowly in Parliament – until this week. Three committees adopted the measures on Tuesday and Wednesday, and set in motion the vote on the amended bill. Supporters and opponents said before the vote that they expected it to be very tight, a rare case of real drama and a lack of certainty for a floor vote.

SB 38 was changed during the week, perhaps in an attempt to secure votes. In a major change, the number of years that operators could claim deductions for promotional credits – which allow them to reduce their taxable income – was shortened from five years to three years.

Earlier Wednesday, a House committee amended the bill to add money to North Carolina’s least funded college athletic departments – many of them historic black colleges and universities – and each county’s youth sports programs from tax revenue produced by online sports betting.

Saine was unclear about the next steps supporters would take. He said he would ask that the bill be returned to committee, perhaps to remove the wording that currently makes it dependent on SB 688.

“We may end up with a bill before the end of the session that will serve for sports betting,” he said. “Do not know yet.”

Additional hostile changes could be offered, including one that would ban the use of credit cards to open betting accounts. Much of the debate was about the impact on low-income citizens.

“My fear is that it will disproportionately affect people who can least afford it,” the rep said. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover. “I feel the same way about the lottery. I see people spend hard-earned dollars that they may not need to pursue something that is designed and conspired against. The table always wins. The house always wins.”

Rep. Wesley Harris, D-Mecklenburg, was one of the few advocates speaking during the floor debate.

“This is an opportunity that we do not have to be left behind, to do what we can, as best we can, to protect our consumers, to protect our citizens,” Harris said. “And we’ll get some side benefits from that, too. So when you put it all together, the good simply outweighs the bad for me.”

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Javed Iqbal

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