The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill, HB 347, to legalize mobile sports betting in late March. After that vote, some stakeholders were optimistic the Senate might quickly usher the bill through and onto the governor’s desk.
Over a month later, however, the measure has yet to be discussed in any Senate committee. Despite the lack of action, it’s not time to hit the panic button on the bill’s likelihood of becoming law.
North Carolina’s legislative session is scheduled to last through the end of August, giving legislators plenty of time to discuss the sports betting bill. The state’s crossover deadline for bills to move into the opposite chamber came last week, which meant state senators were primarily focused on moving Senate bills forward in April. Now that the crossover deadline has passed, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the mobile sports betting bill receive Senate attention in coming weeks.
No date has been determined for when the Senate will discuss mobile sports wagering, a lobbyist connected to the wagering bill recently told Sports Handle. Despite the lack of a firm timeline, sports betting supporters are optimistic about its chances of passing.
Inside the bill
Under the current language in the bill, the North Carolina Lottery would serve as the state’s sports betting regulator and up to 12 mobile licenses could be granted. Each license would cost $1 million, and federally recognized tribes in the state, which currently offer retail sports wagering, would be allowed to offer mobile betting.
The bill taxes sports betting revenue at 14%, a number that could be amended in the Senate. Operators would receive promotional tax deductions upon launch, but those would be phased out over a couple of years.
Allowing college sports betting was a controversial topic during previous sessions, and the bill currently includes it. That topic will likely come up in Senate discussions, especially with some lawmakers potentially concerned about new college sports wagering investigations surrounding universities in Alabama and Iowa. Some legislators may cite those examples as reasons to limit widespread gambling, while others could point to the protections of a legal betting market as a positive.
How will this impact the sports wagering bill awaiting action in the North Carolina Senate? #ncpol https://t.co/PqmatwAVOY
— Brian Murphy (@murphsturph) May 8, 2023
Potential time crunch for regulators
HB 347 projects a launch date for mobile sportsbooks of Jan. 8, 2024. It takes significant time for a regulator to draft sports betting rules and issue mobile wagering licenses. It’s not unusual for a state to need at least 6-12 months after legalization to prepare for launch.
Kansas is an example of a state moving quickly through the regulatory process. The state officially legalized mobile sports betting on May 12, 2022, and mobile platforms launched in September 2022 ahead of Week 1 of the NFL season, needing only about four months to go from legalization to launch. Kansas was on the faster side of the regulatory journey, as Ohio and Maryland each took over a year to go from legalization to launch. Virginia took about nine months.
If North Carolina legislators take much longer to legalize mobile wagering, it jeopardizes the possibility that mobile sportsbooks will be available for customers before the 2024 Super Bowl.