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Sports gambling legislation advances in North Carolina House

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Legislation authorizing and regulating sports gambling in North Carolina advanced through two more House committees on Wednesday, laying the groundwork for key chamber-wide votes next week.
The finance and judiciary committees approved the measure one day after the House commerce panel also advanced details of a proposed infrastructure whereby people across the state could wager online and at or near pro sports stadiums and arenas. From 10 to 12 interactive sports wagering licenses would be awarded by the state lottery commission.
Although sports gambling happens lawfully now at three American Indian casinos in the state, North Carolina is a largely untapped market in a country where over 30 states allow some kind of in-person or online sportsbooks, including neighboring Virginia and Tennessee. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also supports legalizing sports gambling.
A sports gambling measure passed the Senate comfortably in 2021. But the effort collapsed in the House last June after a coalition of social conservatives and hardline liberals weakened and ultimately defeated the legislation. This year’s measure also would have to pass the Senate as well before it could go to Cooper.
Determined forces behind the measure — gambling companies and North Carolina-based sports franchises among them — have pushed robustly for the idea again in the new two-year session. They say such gambling is already happening in the state through local bookies and online work-arounds.
There were 1.75 million attempts based in North Carolina to log in to online sportsbooks in other states during the past National Football League season, said John Pappas, an executive with a cybersecurity company that works to ensure bettors live in states where such gambling is lawful.
“Sports betting is here today,” Pappas said.
Over 50 House members — nearly half of the chamber — from both parties have sponsored the latest legislation. And some past opponents are no longer in the legislature.
“It is a new year and we have new legislators,” Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincoln County Republican and chief bill sponsor, said in the judiciary committee, where the measure passed by a 7-3 vote.
If the bill became law, people within the state over age 21 could cast bets starting next January on professional, college and amateur sports, as well as horse racing. There are prohibitions on betting on high school and youth sports. Wagering licensees would have to pay $1 million application fees
The state would collect a 14% tax on the operators’ gross wagering revenue, minus winnings and other expenses. Promotional credits given to encourage new players to bet and become customers also would reduce revenue levels until 2027.
Cooper’s state budget proposal projects the state collecting $60 million through sports betting in the 2024-25 fiscal year. But the legislature’s fiscal staff paints a more conservative picture, with a $21 million net revenue boost in 2024-25 that doubles within three years.
The state’s proceeds would go to local, regional and state athletics initiatives, athletic programs at smaller University of North Carolina system schools and problem-gambling programs.
The bill cleared the committees after several amendments by bill opponents were rejected. Outside speakers attacked the measure in the judiciary committee, saying it would create a massive expansion of legalized gambling and more betting addictions that would harm tens of thousands of families and normalize the activity for children.
“Their favorite athletes are endorsing gambling. Every advertisement’s gambling,” Les Bernal, national director of the group Stop Predatory Gambling, told legislators. “You’re not a sports fan anymore unless you’re betting on the game.”
Brandt Iden, an executive with Fanatics Betting & Gaming supporting the measure, pushed back against Bernal’s comments.
“We do not support predatory gaming,” Iden said. “We do not support advocating for children getting involved in this.”
Rep. Abe Jones, a Wake County Democrat opposed to the measure, said pro-sports gambling forces appear to be in a better position compared to last year.
“I know the train is on the track and it’s going to happen,” Jones said. “I hope it will help our state more than it harms our state.”

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