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North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Clears Senate

A bill seeking to legalize commercial retail and mobile sports betting in North Carolina has advanced to the House of Representatives, following approval from the state’s Senate on Thursday.

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The legislation, SB 688, was first introduced in the NC Senate by Sen. Jim Perry and Sen. Paul Lowe in April this year, but it did not make any significant strides until early this month. The last three weeks have seen the measure move through four Senate committees, before hitting the floor of the Senate for a full vote.

Members of the Senate approved the measure on a second reading by a close vote of 26-21, sending it to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The narrow passage continues to highlight the absence of consensus in the Senate regarding expanding sports betting outside of the state’s tribal casinos.

What’s in the Proposed Measure?

SB 688 aims to allow commercial operators into the legal NC sports betting market. The state launched its regulated wagering industry in March this year, but the current law limits the offering to tribal-operated casinos.

Should SB 688 become law, however, bettors in the Old North State will have 10 to 12 licensed sportsbook apps to choose from, all regulated by the NC Education Lottery. The bill also paves the way for sporting facilities with a seating capacity of 17,000 or more and golf courses that hold professional tournaments annually to set up retail books.

The cost of entering the NC market will be $500,000, with operators required to renew their permits after five years for $100,000. The proposed tax rate for licensed sportsbooks is 8% of the adjusted gross receipts.

The legislation further creates a Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund, which will be tasked with attracting major events to the state. The Fund will benefit from 50% of the tax revenue generated by sports betting, while the other half will go towards education.

Another notable thing about SB 688 is that it allows the use of ‘’digital, crypto, and virtual currencies’’ in wagering, making North Carolina the second US state to embrace crypto betting after Wyoming.

What the Opponents and Proponents are Saying

Despite the progress made by the NC sports betting bill this month, SB 688 continues to face opposition from some of the state’s lawmakers as well as religious groups and social conservatives.

Those opposing the legislation argue that expanding the market will lead to an increase in problem gambling, and in turn destroy individual lives as well as families in the state. The issue of protecting the integrity of sports has also been raised by some opponents.

‘’In addition to harming individual lives, marriages, and families, Senate Bill 688 will also degrade our state, which has an incredibly rich heritage in collegiate, amateur, and professional sports. With the passage of this bill, gambling – and not the games themselves – will become the centerpiece of sports competition in North Carolina,’’ warned the President of the North Carolina Family Policy Council in his statement to the Senate Committee on Finance earlier this month.

Other opponents like Sen. Jim Burgin are skeptical about the fiscal feasibility of the proposal, arguing that the bill will produce very little money.

However, those supporting the measure, led by Sen. Jim Perry, have pointed out that banning the activity hasn’t worked since illegal gambling is already taking place in the state.

‘’Prohibition doesn’t work. We know the activity takes place today whether we like it or not. We can’t ignore that fact. It’s just not something regulated and taxed by the state,’’ said the lawmaker during the second reading of the bill on Wednesday.

His sentiments have been echoed by the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Paul Lowe, who says that expanding the industry would generate more revenue for the state.

All eyes are now on the House of Representatives as it prepares to discuss the legislation.

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