RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A bipartisan push to legalize sports betting in North Carolina would help generate funding for communities struggling to get money to build schools, according to the senators backing the proposal.
“We need more money for education. We’ve got to do it some kind of way, and it’s not gonna drop out of the air,” said Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth). “Folks are already doing it, so we might as well get the tax dollars from it obviously.”
Lowe has been working with Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir/Wayne) on the proposal, which had 15 co-sponsors Thursday, including some of the Senate’s Republican leaders.
Senate Bill 688 would authorize and regulate sports wagering in North Carolina as sports bettors have limited access to placing wagers via sportsbooks. The state has two tribal casinos to place sports bets on or partake in casino games.
About 30 percent of lottery revenue goes to education, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
The net proceeds of the North Carolina Education Lottery go to education expenses, including reduced class size in early grades, academic prekindergarten programs, school construction, and scholarships for needy college and university students.
DPI said that even if the NC Education lottery gave 100 percent of its revenue to schools, that would only cover about 19 percent of the state’s total budget for K-12 public schools. More state revenue from sports betting could help cover a larger percentage of the budget.
Lowe estimated the bill would generate about $50 million annually. Under the bill, there would be an 8 percent tax. Half of that money would have to go to the North Carolina Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund, which would be set up to attract and retain large events and promote job creation.
If the bill is passed, bettors will be able to gamble on amateur, college, electronic, and professional sports. Other events may also be allowed, as long as it is approved by the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission.
Daily fantasy sports betting is allowed in the state via sites like FanDuel, Draftkings, which are among the most popular platforms.
Neighboring states Virginia and Tennessee offer full online sports betting. Tennessee does not offer physical sportsbooks, but Virginia has both in-person and online sports wagering.
In an email, John Rustin, president and executive director of the conservative NC Family Policy Council said the proposal goes too far.
“The more forms of gambling that exist and the greater the prevalence of gambling means that an increasing number of citizens will be enticed to participate. Of those who do, a significant percentage will develop problem or pathological gambling issues, which are directly related to increases in theft, embezzlement, personal bankruptcy, domestic violence, child abuse, divorce, and even suicide. North Carolina should strongly resist the urge to hitch its wagon to such a losing bet,” he wrote.
According to current North Carolina law, you must 21 years of age and older, though some online betting sites allow some as young as 18 to register for an account.
Lawmakers said the bill would make it illegal for any person to offer or accept sports wages in the state without a valid interactive sports wagering operator license. This does not include registered players.
According to the bill, sports wagering operator applicants must submit a form from the Commission and pay a licensing fee of $500,000. If the application is denied, the licensing fee will be refunded, minus any expenses incurred by the Commission upon reviewal of the application, the bill reads.
Applicants must not be anyone who has been convicted, or a “key person” of the applicant has been convicted, of a felony or any gambling offense in any state or federal court of the United States within 10 years of application or renewal.
The bill describes a “key person” as an “officer or director of an interactive sports wagering operator who is directly involved in the operation, management, or control of sports wagering authorized under this Article, or who exercises substantial influence or control over the interactive sports wagering operator’s sports wagering activities.”
According to the bill, bettors would also be able to wage bets using cryptocurrency and other digital/virtual currencies, among other traditional forms of payment such as cash or debit/credit card.