RALEIGH — Sports betting legislation hasn’t seen much movement in North Carolina, although sponsors are hopeful to see action in June.
Senate Bill 688, sponsored by Sens. Jim Perry, R-Wayne, and Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate on April 8 and has sat there since. As previously reported by Carolina Journal, that legislation aims to authorize and regulate sports betting in North Carolina beyond the tribal casinos, with the revenue primarily going to schools and economic development.
The legislation would permit up to 12 online licenses in North Carolina and allow owner of sports facilities with higher capacities to set up on-site wagering platforms.
Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, introduced House Bill 631 in April. Like S.B. 688, it would set a tax rate of 8% of gross adjusted revenue and create a Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund.
Jon Sanders, research editor and senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, previously told CJ he has reservations about that becoming a wide-ranging incentives fund. He also opposes the concept of collecting this new tax and them immediately earmarking it.
Saine’s bill was scheduled for a hearing in the House Commerce Committee on May 11, after a clerk added the legislation to the agenda to clear out bills assigned to that committee. Saine told Play Georgia it wasn’t ready and pulled it from the calendar.
“Our plan was always to let the Senate go first on it so we know what we’re dealing with,” Saine said. “I think we’re pretty close to starting to get that bill moving in the Senate.”
Saine said the fact that neighboring Tennessee has collected nearly $16 million in tax revenue so far in 2021 has been “a wake-up call to a lot of legislators.”
“By not legalizing statewide sports betting, we’re not preventing anyone from gambling,” Saine told Play Georgia. “We’re just shifting dollars. We can recoup some of those dollars and not let money go to other states or offshore sites.”
The budget has taken priority in recent weeks, with House and Senate leaders just announcing they have reached an agreement on how much to spend the next two years, three weeks before the end of the fiscal year. Sponsors of the sports betting legislation hope to garner serious discussion about their bills in the next few weeks before lawmakers break in July. They will return for a special session in September, but that period will likely be focused on redistricting.
Saine said that by the end of June he thinks he’ll have an idea if the legislation “has wings or not in North Carolina.”