Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. Monday, April 26, to correctly report money raised by the N.C. Education Lottery.
A recently introduced Senate bill would authorize and regulate sports betting in North Carolina beyond the tribal casinos with the revenue primarily going to schools and economic development.
Senate Bill 688, from Sens. Jim Perry and Paul Lowe, would permit up to 12 online licenses in the state. It would also allow owner of sports facilities hosting professional events with capacity greater than 17,000 to set up wagering platforms through on-site computer terminals or mobile devices. This could include such sites as the stadiums and arenas that host the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
The allowance of wagers at the location of sports sites is a growing trend around the country, with a recent Arizona sports bill permitting it, which led to the announcement that DraftKings would establish a sportsbook at TPC Scottdale.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened sportsbooks in their two North Carolina casinos in March, following passage of legislation allowing it in 2019. Current law only allows on-site betting, but if S.B, 688 passes, the band could apply for interactive licenses, as well.
The legislation puts the control of state sports betting under the N.C. Education Lottery Commission, which would collect 8% of betting revenue, with that money going toward school funding, promotion of job growth and economic development. Perry estimates that widespread legalized sports betting could bring in $50 million annually in tax revenue.
The Education Lottery in fiscal 2020 raised $729 million for education programs in North Carolina, a lottery spokesman told Carolina Journal.
Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, told Carolina Journal that he has concerns about how the legislation creates a Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund, which would receive half of the tax revenue. Money from that fund would be used to provide grants to organizers of a wide array of events, from sports to music to politics.
“I worry that it would take on a life of its own and become another incentives fund,” Sanders said. “I’m not happy with taxing this money and then immediately earmarking it.”
Operators would have to pay $500,000 for an initial license lasting five years, and $100,000 to renew their licenses under this legislation.
The bill would allow betting on a wide range of professional and college sports, as well as video game esports and Olympic-style events.
Perry told the Raleigh News & Observer the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the disparity between the haves and have-nots, and he hopes this legislation can help pay for needed projects in his and other non-metropolitan districts.
“Look, until someone else brings me some ideas about how to help provide more funding for school construction in rural areas, then I’m looking at every idea,” he said.
Sanders said he approves of the concept of creating a legal gambling market and allowing private operators to become involved.
“I think if the state is going to be in the lottery business they should allow others to get into the gambling business, too,” he said.
About half of the states now have legalized sports betting following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. North Carolina’s neighbors Tennessee and Virginia have already seen nice returns, with Tennessee’s online-only market generating $12.3 million in taxes since November and Virginia collecting more than $340,000 in about three months, Legal Sports Report reported.