RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina could be the next state to legalize online sports betting when state lawmakers return to Raleigh later this month.
Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), who has been advocating for the state to take this step, says a majority in the state House of Representatives has committed to voting in favor of a bill that’s already cleared the state Senate.
“Our vote count, we believe, is really good in the House. We think we can get that passed in the House. So we want to do that sooner rather than later. I would say within the first couple of weeks,” Rep. Saine said. “We think we’ve really worked this bill and gotten some consensus among most members. And those who will vote against, we certainly understand that.”
The General Assembly comes back into session next Wednesday, May 18.
Last August, the Senate voted 26-19 to pass a bill that legalizes online betting for: professional, collegiate, amateur and electronic sports.
It allows for 10 to 12 licenses to be issued and a licensing fee of $500,000. The state would also impose an 8 percent tax on adjusted gross revenues. That tax money would be split evenly between a fund to promote major events and the general fund.
The bill has had both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.
Advocates point out that more states are moving to legalize and regulate online sports betting, including neighbors Virginia and Tennessee. They argue that betting is occurring anyway regardless of its legal status, so the state should tax it and benefit from that.
Opponents have raised concerns about additional state-sanctioned gambling leading to addiction and other societal ills. Some have criticized the proposal as not doing enough to generate revenue for the state.
A non-partisan analysis by researchers in the legislature estimated it would bring in $8 million to $24 million per year. Other analyses have put that figure closer to $50 million. The state budget this year is about $26 billion.
Rep. Saine he wants to see the Senate bill pass as it is and then consider changes to the tax and fee structure at a later time.
“I think that will stay and then we’ll come back for the bigger debate later on some of the specifics. But, the bill as is, I think will get through,” he said.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has said he supports legalization, adding it could also bring jobs to the state.
A poll CBS 17 conducted in partnership with Emerson College and the Hill last month found North Carolinians are split on the idea, as 42 percent told us they support it compared to 37 percent who are opposed.
Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson College Polling, said in other surveys he’s conducted he found when you ask voters specifically about legalizing betting on college sports, support goes down signifincatly.
“And, once we start talking about college sports gambling, that number drops by 20 or 30 points in all of our surveys. So, this is talking about sports gambling and it’s still contentious,” he said. “To do it all in one fell swoop might be overwhelming for voters to comprehend. And, it might get passed. But, there might be some real problems that haven’t been thoroughly vetted by putting it all in one bill.”
The bill that originally passed the Senate last year would have taken effect Jan. 1 of this year. So, lawmakers will have to agree on a new date. Rep. Saine has said they’re aiming to have legalized betting in place during the upcoming NFL season.