RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – A proposal to expand sports gambling in North Carolina has accomplished a trifecta in less than 24 hours.
House Bill 347, with amendments being proposed right and left, fought its way through its third committee vote on Wednesday afternoon, when the Judiciary1 Committee sent the bill back to the Rules Committee (and to the threshold of a vote on the House floor) by a vote of 7-3, with two absentees.
The bill had passed through the House Commerce Committee, 17-10, on Tuesday afternoon, and advanced in a voice vote by the Finance Committee on Wednesday morning.
This bill would allow online betting on pro, electronic and amateur sports. Up to 12 companies would be licensed at $1 million each to operate in the state, and their revenue would be taxed at a 14% rate, potentially generating tens of millions of dollars in new state income.
Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget introduced last week suggests $85 million in revenue from sports gambling in the first year.
Some of that revenue would be earmarked for historically Black colleges and universities, would provide funds to treat gambling addiction, create a grant program for parks and recreation departments in all 100 counties to buy equipment and build facilities and create a program to attract tournaments and events.
State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) Harrison – who has been a vocal opponent to the bill as written, saying that it’s “a terrible way to raise revenue; there is nothing good about this ” – did all that she could to derail the bill in committee.
Harrison argued that the bill violates the state’s constitution because it surpasses the 10% limit on income taxes and potentially creates monopolies. A staff spokesperson said those issues had not been litigated.
And she introduced five amendments, although none of them came close to passing.
Harrison’s five defeated amendments dealt with eliminating horse racing and greyhound racing, eliminating Olympic and amateur sports betting, raising the licensing fee to $100 million, raising fines from $10,000 to $1 million per violation and setting a three-strikes limit and preventing gambling advertising on campuses.
Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln County), one of the bill’s sponsors who presented it to the committee, said there could be one change relative to those.
“I’m not a fan of greyhounds,” he told Harrison. “We are working for a PCS [adjustment] when the bill goes to Rules to take out greyhound racing.”
In earlier committees several amendments were pitched – including eliminating college and amateur sports, eliminating credit card wagering and expanding the state’s revenue cut to 51%, which would match New York as the nation’s highest – but none of them got anything close to a positive vote.
In addition to the greyhound adjustment, Rep. Zack Hawkins (D-Durham) explained in a hearing Tuesday that, in addition to the distributions for HBCUs, there would be a substitute bill that would be presented in the Rules Committee to add UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Wilmington and Western Carolina University to those who would get grants from the proceeds.
House sports gambling bill by Steven Doyle on Scribd
This bill is unique in that its support and opposition do not break down along anything close to party lines. Harrison, who represents District 61, is on the opposite side of her neighbor just to the northeast, District 57 Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro), the deputy Democratic leader in the House, one of the bill’s sponsors.
A similar bill that passed the Senate last summer and failed by one vote of being approved in the House drew a wide variety of up and down votes from both parties.
Six members of the public spoke during the Judiciary1 hearing. Three of them represented the gaming industry, and three were opponents based on a biblical principle and the effects on families and children.
“I feel very passionately this is the wrong thing to do,” Harrison said Wednesday. “Only a few states that are doing this are successfully raising revenue. In Kansas, companies had earned had $200 million, but only $41,000 went to the state of Kansas.
“I appreciate that the governor thinks this is a good idea. So did the governor of Kansas, and now she wants the legislature to take another look at it.
“Our state is better than this.”
She did have support in the committee from Rep. Abe Jones (D-Wake), who said he knows “this train is on the track. This is going to happen.
“I thought last year, but now this year. I admire the efficiency and effectiveness of the people who put this together. My hat’s off to lobbyists and leadership. I hope that it helps more than it hurts.
“The question is not whether people are going to gamble. The question is whether the state should support it. We sell off our values for money.”
There are 33 states with live, legal sports gambling. North Carolina is included on that list because the state has four licensed casinos on Indigenous Peoples’ property — two in Cherokee, one in Murphy and one in King’s Mountain.
Three states have legalized gambling but are not yet operational, and nine have active ballot initiatives, which include South Carolina and Georgia. There is no legislation in five states, which include California and Alabama.
Five states are in transition, three have legalized gambling prefiled legislation and the rest are not actively pursuing legalized gambling, which is mostly Southern states.
Virginia, which passed gambling measures in 2021, collected $26.7 million in sports gambling revenue. Caesars Virginia is supposed to open a casino in Danville, Virginia, later this year.
Saine said legislators “understand that we are losing money to Virginia.”