RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – State lawmakers will file legislation this week to legalize mobile sports betting in North Carolina, as Gov. Roy Cooper (D) thinks it will have a better chance of passing this year.
Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) said the bill in the state House of Representatives will be substantially similar to a bill that failed last year by just one vote. However, this time he’s confident it will have enough support in the House to pass.
“This will be something that’s legitimate in the state, something that we can see. We can put some transparency on it and see where the money moves. I think that’s best for everybody,” said Saine.
Gov. Cooper has been a supporter of legalization and spoke to reporters about the prospects of the bill passing this year as he prepared to celebrate this weekend’s Stadium Series where the Carolina Hurricanes hosted a nationally televised outdoor game at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“I think it’s gonna pass from what I hear. We’re working with trying to get good legislation that’s fair to the taxpayers but also recognizes something that’s going on anyway,” said Cooper. “We might as well get a benefit for our schools and our state out of it.”
When the bill came up for a vote last year it had bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.
Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) was among those who voted against it. She remains concerned that it will not lead to a significant windfall of tax revenue for the state and thinks it goes too far in expanding gambling.
She proposed only legalizing betting in-person at professional sports venues first before considering mobile sports betting.
“It is an interesting mix of super-progressives and super-conservatives who are concerned about the impacts this might have on our state. And, I think that coalition is still there and it’s still strong,” she said in a recent interview. “I don’t want us to get all glazy-eyed thinking this is going to be a great revenue source for our state because it won’t.”
A non-partisan analysis of an early version of the bill estimated it would bring in $8 million to $24 million. Bill sponsors estimated it would ultimately be closer to $50 million based on other analyses that had been done.
Rep. Harrison also said with a new group of legislators coming into the General Assembly following last year’s election, she believes that could tip the vote count in favor of those seeking to legalize online betting.
During last year’s floor debate in the House, opponents of the bill successfully led an effort to remove college sports betting. Rep. Saine says that will be included in the bill filed this week.
“Because if you did take out college sports betting, it really at that point it becomes almost useless to pass it because you’re still sending all the revenue to some other state. So, it’s really a boneheaded approach to do it that way,” he said.
A poll released last week by Meredith College found 47 percent of voters support legalizing mobile sports betting for professional and collegiate sports, while 34 percent oppose it and 19 percent said they don’t know.
Saine said as he’s talked to lawmakers who are on the fence about the matter, he thinks the polling shows that it’s not an issue that would either jeopardize or substantially help a legislator’s re-election prospects.
“It was kind of a wash. I don’t think there’s any real recoil, any backlash for voting for it, or quite frankly for that matter voting against it,” he said.
Rep. Saine said Democratic Reps. Ashton Clemmons, Zack Hawkins and Michael Wray are working with him on the bill as well as Republican House Majority Leader John Bell. While last year’s bill failed to pass the House, it did pass the Senate. Saine said he believes that will happen again this year too.
After the bill is filed this week, he said he expects it to move quickly through committees and head to the floor for a vote.
According to the American Gaming Association, mobile sports betting is legal and live in 23 states and Washington, D.C. Three additional states have legalized it, but it’s not yet operational.