HB 347, a bill to legalize mobile sports betting in North Carolina, is heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. The North Carolina House of Representatives approved the Senate’s recent changes to the bill Wednesday, putting the Tar Heel State just a swipe of Cooper’s pen away from allowing legal mobile sportsbooks.
Wednesday’s vote wasn’t without brief debate, as Rep. Pricey Harrison was among those who spoke up against the bill before the final vote of approval.
“This predatory gambling bill is still predatory, and it’s going to hurt North Carolina,” Harrison said.
Despite a few vocal objections, the bill passed through the House by a vote of 68-45.
Gov. Cooper is expected to sign HB 347 into law, but bettors in North Carolina should not expect mobile sportsbooks to go live in the state by the start of the 2023 NFL season. The legislation allows the state’s regulator, the North Carolina Lottery Commission, up to a year to draft regulations and award licenses for mobile wagering and a launch is not to take place before Jan. 8, 2024. States often need six months to a year to go from legalization to launch.
HB 347 allows for up to 12 mobile operators to enter North Carolina’s sports wagering market, and it also includes the expansion of retail sports betting in the state. Currently, only tribal casinos are allowed to offer in-person sports wagering.
The legislation allows for up to eight tethered licenses and leaves the opportunity for four standalone mobile licenses. Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte), Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, PNC Arena in Raleigh, Quail Hollow Country Club, Sedgefield Country Club, Spectrum Center (Charlotte), and WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary) could apply for both retail locations and digital platforms.
The bill taxes mobile sports betting at 18% of adjusted gross revenue, and operators are not allowed to deduct promotional play from taxable revenue. An earlier iteration of the bill did allow promotional play tax deductions, but the Senate removed those provisions in recent weeks.
Tax revenue is distributed to several areas, including $2 million earmarked annually for the Department of Health and Human Services for problem gambling treatment and education. Another $1 million goes to North Carolina Amateur Sports, giving local governments grants to help bolster youth participation in athletics. An additional $1 million goes to the North Carolina Heritage Advisory Council.
There are 13 universities (Appalachian State, East Carolina, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Wilmington, Western Carolina, and Winston-Salem State) that will receive $300,000 annually for their respective athletic departments. Any remaining proceeds are distributed between those respective colleges (20%), the North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund (30%), and the General Fund (50%).
Bettors in North Carolina will be allowed to wager on college and professional sports under the bill, and parimutuel betting on horse racing is also allowed. Harrison disliked the inclusion of horse racing, but her objections didn’t resonate across the entire House.
“This is an inhumane, terrible, terrible industry,” Harrison said.
The next immediate stop for the bill is Gov. Cooper’s desk. If he signs the bill into law, it’s then in the hands of the lottery commission, which will work to draft regulations and award licenses in the coming months.
HB 347, a bill to legalize mobile sports betting in North Carolina, is heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk after the House concurred with Senate changes.
If Gov. Cooper signs the bill into law, legal mobile sportsbooks will come to North Carolina some time after Jan. 8, 2024.
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) June 7, 2023
The quicker the commission moves through regulatory hurdles, the better the chance North Carolinians can bet on the 2024 Super Bowl. Until regulatory hurdles are cleared — it may take a year until mobile sportsbooks launch in the state — many North Carolinians will continue to use illegal offshore platforms or travel across state lines to place bets.
“Since the start of the year, our data shows more than 1.5 million geolocation checks from nearly 155,000 sports wagering accounts across the state,” John Pappas, senior vice president of government and public affairs at GeoComply, told Sports Handle in a statement. “While our technology did not permit these individuals to bet, the interest is undeniable. It is also undisputed that regulation will give adult bettors in North Carolina safe and accountable options to wager and the state an important new revenue stream.”
GeoComply data from the first five months of 2023 also shows that more than 5,000 people accessed a Virginia betting app from within North Carolina and then traveled to Virginia. Once across state lines, they logged into a mobile betting app and successfully wagered.
The days of North Carolina residents needing to travel across borders to place legal mobile sports bets appear numbered.