A highly anticipated bill to legalize mobile sports betting in North Carolina was filed Monday by Rep. Jason Saine. HB 347 could result in bringing up to 12 legal mobile sportsbooks to North Carolina, which currently allows retail sports betting at tribal casinos.
The bill is similar to a 2022 effort that failed in the House by one vote, but there’s optimism among sports betting stakeholders that this year could be different. College sports betting is included in HB 347, a topic that caused significant pushback from some legislators in 2022.
Whoa. An amendment adopted in the North Carolina House will ban wagering on college sports.
Mobile sports wagering bills may pass in coming days, but legally wagering on Duke, UNC, any other college contests, is no longer included.
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) June 22, 2022
North Carolina universities have strong interest among sports fans in the state, with UNC and Duke’s basketball teams being two of the most storied programs in the country. Allowing wagers on those teams would increase potential tax revenue generated by the state.
While there will be debates over language in the bill in coming weeks, there’s an appetite for legal mobile betting in North Carolina. Recent data provided by GeoComply showed that some North Carolina residents are driving into Virginia to place legal sports bets on their phones.
Legalizing mobile wagering would bring tax revenue to North Carolina while reducing the number of sports bettors in the state using unregulated sites.
The bill would allow for up to 12 mobile sportsbooks, and licenses would cost $1 million for five years.
Federally recognized tribes in the state could offer mobile betting, and licenses for those tribes would not count toward the 12 allowed by the bill. The 12 mobile operators would not be allowed to accept wagers if a bettor is on tribal land.
Sports facilities — North Carolina is home to multiple professional franchises — could have sports betting lounges within a half mile of the facility. This would allow for a retail betting component in the state in addition to the currently legal sportsbooks at tribal casinos.
The North Carolina State Lottery Commission would regulate sports betting in the state, and sportsbooks could accept wagers on professional, college, and Olympic sports, as well as esports. Leagues have the ability to request that operators use official league data to settle in-game wagers.
Tax rate breakdown
The bill would tax adjusted gross revenue at 14%, and tax revenue would be distributed to a handful of different entities.
The legislation sends $2 million annually to the Department of Health and Human Services for gambling education and treatment programs. Responsible gambling has become an area of focus for states launching sports betting or hoping to legalize in the near future.
Another $1 million would go toward the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to give counties $10,000 grants for youth sports equipment and facility upgrades. If there isn’t enough funding for each county to receive a $10,000 grant, each county would receive some equal funding amount below $10,000.
The bill also plans to give $300,000 annually to the athletic departments of Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University. Like the youth sports grants, if there isn’t enough funding to give each school $300,000, each school would receive an equal, reduced amount.
Another $1 million of tax revenue would be distributed to the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council to award various grants.
The remaining tax revenue would be split up between the athletic departments of the seven universities listed above (10%), the North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund (30%), and the state’s general fund (60%).
Operators are initially allowed promotional tax deductions, but the bill phases those out by 2027.
North Carolina’s crossover deadline is May 4, giving the House nearly two months to move the bill into the Senate. The state’s legislative session concludes at the end of August.
There’s ample time for North Carolina legislators to make a decision on legalizing mobile sports betting. Stakeholders would likely prefer a rapid legalization process, though. Depending on how fast the legislature legalizes mobile wagering, it could go live during the 2023-24 NFL season. The bill lists Jan. 1, 2024 as a start date, which would mean North Carolina would have legalized mobile sports betting before the next Super Bowl.