North Carolina lawmakers haven’t officially broached the subject of legal sports betting, but that doesn’t mean ideas and conversations about the topic aren’t circulating around the state.
“This is an issue that’s on people’s minds, but I don’t know where our caucus stands, particularly the new members. I expect that the proper role for the state will be discussed as we enter the new session next year,” North Carolina senator Phil Berger told the Charlotte Observer in an email.
Several North Carolina lawmakers introduced legislation in 2018 to legalize daily fantasy sports, but none got to a vote. In neighboring South Carolina, at least one sports betting bill was filed in the state legislature, but did not reach a vote. Lawmakers, there, though, are enthusiastic about the possibility of legalizing sports betting.
North Carolina Lawmakers Expect to Take Up Sports Betting in the 2019 Session
“The money is too huge for states to ignore it,” South Carolina minority leader Todd Rutherford told The State in May after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
At least one key player in North Carolina agrees. David Tepper, the new owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, has sports betting at the top of his mind.
“We have a law that was passed just recently and it has not yet hit the Carolinas – the whole gambling aspect,” Tepper said in his first press conference after purchasing the team, making reference to the law legalizing sports wagering in New Jersey. “You think about the fans and you want to keep the fans in the building. Eventually it’s going to hit North and South Carolina. It has to, from a revenue standpoint. You have issues with paying teachers and other things down here, and tax revenue so it’s inevitable.”
Tepper owns one of North Carolina’s three professional teams. The state is home to the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats and NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, and is the epicenter of NASCAR. South Carolina does not have any pro teams, and as has been clear as states have begun legalizing sports betting, those with pro teams are under different pressures than those that don’t. Since PASPA was struck down, the only states with professional sports teams to accept sports bets so far are New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the latter of which legalized at the end of 2017, before PASPA was ruled unconstitutional.
States That Have Professional Sports Teams Are Under Different Pressures Than Those That Don’t When It Comes to Legalizing Sports Betting
Since it became clear that PASPA was likely to fall, the pro leagues have been lobbying across the country for everything from a royalty on all wagers, to mandating that sportsbooks purchase “official” data directly from the leagues. But the pressure is less intense in states that don’t have professional sports teams. Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, Rhode Island and West Virginia, none of which have pro teams, have legalized sports betting (through various mechanisms) or have taken sports bets in the last few months. Lawmakers in those states have not seriously entertained paying the professional leagues or forcing sportsbooks to buy data from them.
But in New York and Michigan, both of which have multiple professional sports teams, the franchises may have more pull, giving lawmakers an additional stakeholder to hear out or appease.
However North Carolina lawmakers choose to proceed, they’ll have a bevy of decisions to make before the first sports bet can be taken in the Tar Heel State. While every state must consider everything from tax rate to regulation, North Carolina will have the added tasks of determining exactly where sports bets could be placed, and may have to negotiate with the state’s tribal interests. North Carolina does not currently have any commercial casinos, but does have two Indian casinos.
North Carolina is not bordered by any states that currently have legal sports betting, but lawmakers in both Tennessee and Virginia have pre-filed bills in their respective states ahead of the 2019 sessions.