North Carolina won’t legalize mobile sports betting during its current legislative session despite optimistic predictions from lawmakers when they first convened in Raleigh.
After SB 688 failed to pass through the House, the chances of legalization by the end of the month seemed low. That pessimistic view proved true, with the legislature adjourning at the end of this week.
While retail sports wagering is currently permitted at tribal-owned casinos, the potential legalization of online sports betting has to wait at least a few months.
What went wrong?
Members of the North Carolina House shared several reasons for not supporting sports betting legislation, including integrity concerns and worries about increased gambling addiction. For some legislators, they simply believe gambling of any kind to be immoral.
“I think given the stakeholder alignment on the bill, there was some real positive expectation that the bill could get through,” John Pappas, the State Advocacy Director for iDEA Growth and the founder and CEO of Corridor Consulting, said. “Ultimately, I think what was probably miscalculated was a cultural opposition to gambling in the state.”
While a significant portion of legislators were concerned about widespread legal gambling, the logic they shared to back up integrity concerns and potential gambling addiction increases didn’t always add up. News & Observer Columnist Luke DeCock criticized the integrity rationale in a recent column.
Five days later, it's still hard to believe the General Assembly screwed up sports betting.
But they did.
There truly are no sure things.https://t.co/GHE03Xb2sq
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) June 27, 2022
“When you’re citing the 1961 point-shaving scandal at the Dixie Classic as a reason not to legalize sports gambling, as one legislator did, it demonstrates that not only are you living in the past, you lack the most basic understanding that legalized gambling, with all the checks and balances involved, is a barrier to that kind of nefarious chicanery, not a catalyst of it,” DeCock wrote.
Pappas shared a similar sentiment, especially when referring to the push by some legislators to prohibit betting on college sporting events. That ban was brought up to protect the integrity of college sports, but keeping regulated legal platforms out of the market doesn’t do much of anything for consumer or player protections.
“In my view, and I think the view of most observers of this industry, you’re actually doing exactly the opposite of what you’re seeking to accomplish by continuing to allow this market to be unregulated,” Pappas said.
Could mobile sports betting become legal in North Carolina in the coming years or months? Certainly, although the timeline for potential legalization is anyone’s guess. The legislature will likely reconvene again in 2022, although an official date has yet to be announced.
Source involved with North Carolina sports gambling bills: “Due to the time restraints of this session, we do not see a path forward before adjournment this week. We are hopeful there will be additional opportunities this year to advance the legislation.” #ncpol
— Brian Murphy (@MurphinNC) June 30, 2022
There’s clearly some support from legislators, as SB 688 passed through the North Carolina Senate in 2021 and through several House committees in 2022. A narrow vote of 51-50 struck down SB 688 on the House floor.
Professional sports teams in the state are also supportive. Don Waddell, the president and general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, told the News & Observer he’s disappointed legislators didn’t legalize mobile wagering in recent weeks.
There’s promise for legal mobile sports betting to come to North Carolina, but there are also reasons why more than 30 other states and jurisdictions have legalized mobile wagering first. As this legislative session showed, there are opposing voices in the fight to bring legal sports betting to the state.
“I’m certain it’s going to be a state at the top of the list next year, but as it’s proven the low-hanging fruit has been picked and the states that are hard, that fruit is way high up in the branches, and it’s gonna take a little time to get it,” Pappas said.