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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The North Carolina House next week could take up a bill passed by the Senate that would expand sports gambling in North Carolina.

Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett), the House majority whip, gave that indication in a text message Thursday to WGHP.

“Sports betting seems likely to move next week,” he wrote.

Senate Bill 688 passed the state Senate last August on a 26-19 vote, but it was far from along party lines.

Nine Republicans – including Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) – voted for the bill, but Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville) and Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) were among those against. Four Democrats voted against the bill, including Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro).

Her seatmate, Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro), was on of the bill’s secondary sponsors, so you can see that this measure was far from clear-cut politically.

That also seems to be an issue in the House, where last week the Judiciary Committee created an accompanying Senate Bill 38, sponsored by Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) to make changes in the original bill by doubling licensing fees to $1 million, drastically increasing renewal fees (from $100,000 to $1 milion). All of that increases revenue by $8 milion, to about $24 milion, WRAL reported.

There are 30 states with live, legal sports gambling, reports. 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.

Five states are in transition, three have prefiled legislation and the rest are not actively pursuing legalized gambling, which is mostly Southern states.

One of the reasons the bill didn’t get immediate traction in the House is that there were questions about whether gambling would create as much revenue as it should. Virginia last year collected $26.7 million in sports gambling revenue.

Saine’s bill addresses that and projects the state to realize up to $11 million in revenue by 2025-26 through an 8% tax on gross revenue plus a new fund established through the bill called the North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund.

“The sports betting bill is caught up in a larger negotiation between the House and Senate leadership,” Garrett wrote in a text message to WGHP. “I do think it has a strong chance of passing before the short session ends.”

Gas rebate still in discussion

Garrett expressed some optimism that a bill he was pushing to provide a $200 gas rebate for every licensed driver in the state still may gain momentum. It’s part of the conversation, he said.

The Gas Tax Rebate Act of 2022 would be funded by spending $1.3 billion of the roughly $4.241 billion in surplus revenue the state has collected The bill stipulates that to qualify for the rebate, a person must be a licensed driver residing in North Carolina and at least 18 as of March 31.

“I expect something on the gas tax rebate to be included in the final budget passed before we adjourn,” Garrett said. “There are conversations ongoing on what that might look like.”

Republicans have supported the idea of a rebate of some sort but said they would prefer an approach that lasts longer, which could mean a tax cut. Berger and Moore said last week they were in discussions about a final budget that they would take to Cooper soon. They have talked about pay raises for state employees and more tax cuts.

New U.S. Senate poll

Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley (WGHP file photo
Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley (WGHP file photo)

There is now a third poll on the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, and the latest shows Democrat Cheri Beasley to have a slim lead over Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance).

WRAL last week released its poll of likely voters showing Beasley, the former chief justice of the NC Supreme Court, leading Budd, the representative of the 13th District, by 4 percentage points in their race to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Burr.

The poll, conducted June 8-12 among adults, shows 44% of respondents supporting Beasley, 40% backing Budd. About 14% were undecided. The poll’s “credibility interval” – similar to margin of error – is 5.1 percentage points.

That follows a trend from the prior head-to-head polls before and after the primary on May 17. A WGHP/The Hill/Emerson College Poll, conducted among voters in early May – before each candidate dominated the Primary Election – showed Budd with a 6.8-point lead, 48.2%-41.4%, and 10.4% undecided. But a poll just after the primary by the right-leaning John Locke Foundation/Civitas Institute revealed Budd (R-Advance) with a 2-percentage-point lead over Beasley.