HB 347, a bill to legalize mobile sports betting in North Carolina, passed through the Senate Committee on Commerce and Insurance on Wednesday. The bill cleared the House at the end of March before sitting untouched throughout April.
The bill is next scheduled to be discussed by the Senate Finance Committee, where a hearing date has yet to be announced.
HB 347 doesn’t look the same as it did when it passed in the House, as it underwent a series of significant changes on Wednesday. Spearheaded by Sen. Jim Perry, among the most notable amendments to the bill is the inclusion of parimutuel betting on horse racing, which wasn’t in the House version. Applicants can obtain an advance-deposit wagering (ADW) license, and each licensee would fork over 1% of their annual parimutuel wagering handle to the state’s lottery commission.
On the sports betting side, the new version of the bill includes a mobile sports betting tax rate of 18%, which is a jump from the 14% tax rate approved by the House.
No promotional deductions in new version
The Senate’s new version of the bill won’t allow operators to deduct promotional play from taxable revenue. The House version planned to allow promotional deductions, which were scheduled to be phased out over the first few years of legalized mobile wagering. Operators typically like having promotional play deductions, citing their importance in shifting bettors from the illegal market to the regulated market.
The bill still allows for up to 12 mobile sports betting operators. Mobile sports betting licenses would cost $1 million, while retail sports betting is currently available at tribal casinos in North Carolina.
East Carolina University, Appalachian State University, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte were added to the list of colleges that would receive $300,000 in annual revenue from mobile sports betting. Previously, that provision didn’t direct funds to any Football Bowl Subdivision programs. The University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University are not included in the list of 14 schools to receive revenue from sports betting.
Significant tax revenue from mobile wagering ($2 million) would be allocated annually to the Department of Health and Human Services for problem gambling measures. Tax revenue would also help fund the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation ($1 million) and the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council ($1 million). Remaining tax revenue would go toward the General Fund and the North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund.
The bill still needs to make its way through other Senate committees and the full chamber. Should the Senate come to an agreement on the bill, it would then head back to the House for approval.
If both chambers agree on the contents of the legislation, it will reach the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, a vocal supporter of legal wagering who’s expected to sign a bill into law.
North Carolina’s legislative session isn’t scheduled to conclude until late August, but the bill targets a Jan. 8, 2024, launch of mobile sportsbooks. Given the regulatory challenges of launching in just a few months, legalizing before late August would make a January launch date more feasible.