RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina Senate has approved a bill legalizing mobile sports betting in North Carolina with a vote of 38-11.
Ahead of the Wednesday vote by the state Senate, the chamber’s leader indicated additional gambling legislation could be coming before the end of the session.
North Carolina lawmakers say they’re looking across the state line to Virginia, which has legalized mobile sports betting and is opening casinos near North Carolina.
“We know that they’re crossing the border to go into other states and participate in their economies and leave our economy. So, I think it kind of does force North Carolina’s hand,” said Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln).
The mobile sports betting bill the Senate approved would authorize bets on professional, collegiate, amateur, and electronic sports.
The Senate has made some changes to the bill the House passed earlier this year. The tax rate on gross gaming revenue increased to 18 percent from 14 percent. The Senate version also authorizes wagering on horse racing and allows in-person cash bets to be placed at qualifying venues such as Bank of America Stadium and PNC Arena.
While betting could be legal as soon as January, the Lottery Commission would have the discretion to delay the start of that as long as it begins within 12 months of the bill becoming law.
The bill has had both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. Critics worry about the societal impacts from the expansion of gambling.
“Decades of research clearly demonstrates that the more prevalent gambling is and the more forms of gambling that are legalized and advertised, the more citizens will gamble,” said John Rustin, of the NC Family Policy Council. “Conservative estimates suggest that North Carolina can expect to see tens of thousands additional citizens victimized by gambling addiction.”
A non-partisan analysis of the revised bill shows the state would generate about $100 million in revenue in the fifth year mobile sports betting is operational and net about $71 million after factoring in costs.
“Granted, the state would be taxing this activity, but there’s no promise the revenue will be enough to offset the negative impact,” Rev. Mark Creech, of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, told state lawmakers Tuesday.
Now that the Senate has approved the bill, the House will have to vote on it again due to the changes the Senate made. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has said he supports legalizing mobile sports betting.
The vote on the mobile sports betting bill comes as yet another casino has just opened this month in Danville, Virginia, which is about an hour from Durham. There are already casinos open on the Virginia-Tennessee border in Bristol. The Hampton Roads region has one in Portsmouth with an additional one expected to open in Norfolk.
A conservative group called Greater Carolina recently released a study by Spectrum Gaming that looked at the potential of North Carolina adding three more casinos. There are currently three casinos on tribal land, two of which are in western North Carolina and one of which is in Cleveland County, about 35 miles from Charlotte.
The study found an estimated “casino leakage to Virginia” of about $259 million annually in gross gaming revenue.
It also considered North Carolina allowing casinos in: Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. Spectrum estimates about $1.6 billion in gross gaming revenue could be generated.
Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), who lives near Danville, said there are discussions underway about what additional steps North Carolina should take and said that could include authorizing additional casinos.
“We have the state of Virginia populating casinos on our northern border. I just think people’s attitudes have changed,” he said. “I think people are beginning to engage in conversations. We’ll see what comes of that.”