North Carolina is poised to become the largest U.S. state to legalize mobile sports betting in 2023 after the final passage of an amended bill on Wednesday (June 7).
The House of Representatives voted 69-44 to concur with the latest version of House Bill 347, a bill that will permit the North Carolina State Lottery Commission to issue up to 12 mobile betting licenses.
The House had previously approved the bill in March, but the Senate passed it with several changes, including the addition of pari-mutuel wagering and live horseracing.
The Senate also increased the tax rate from 14 percent to 18 percent, and removed a provision that would allow operators to deduct promotional play from taxable revenues.
The final step for the bill to become law is the signature of Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, which is expected, as he has been a public supporter of legalizing mobile wagering.
Currently, the state only offers land-based sports wagering at three tribal casinos.
The bill would also allow major sports stadiums and arenas to open “places of public accommodation” that would allow land-based wagering on site.
Much of the floor discussion on the bill Wednesday came from critics of the legislation.
Representative Pricey Harrison, a Democrat, praised some changes that were made to the bill, including the increased tax rate, and removing promotional play deductions, but still opposed the bill at large.
“This predatory gambling bill is predatory and is going to hurt North Carolina and doesn’t look like we’re going to achieve very much in exchange,” Harrison said.
In recent years, the bill was heavily lobbied for by the Sports Betting Alliance, the advocacy coalition which includes leading sports-betting operators FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.
Efforts to pass mobile sports betting appeared to be on track last year, with the Senate passing a bill in 2021 to legalize it, but the House fell one vote short in a chaotic voting session, ultimately pushing the state’s timetable back another year.
“Today is the culmination of years of hard work by North Carolina legislators, education and community stakeholders, and fans, and we extend our sincere gratitude to each for their tireless efforts,” Scott Ward, vice president of the Sports Betting Alliance, said in a statement.
“Because of that work, North Carolinians are just one signature away from joining the tens of millions of Americans who can bet on their favorite teams using our safe, legal, and regulated sports-betting platforms.”
The bill includes a $1m license fee for the 12 available licenses, which will be awarded via a competitive selection process conducted by the state lottery commission.
Mobile betting licenses would become effective no earlier than January 8, 2024, but the legislation also specifies that mobile wagering must commence no less than one year after the bill becomes law.
The House elected to concur entirely with the Senate changes, and no discussion was held on other pending gaming issues in the state such as regulation of video lottery terminal machines or potential casino expansion.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore raised some eyebrows last week by saying the House would look to combine sports betting with other gaming issues, but he later backtracked on those remarks.
With Cooper’s signature, North Carolina would become the third state to legalize mobile betting in 2023, joining Kentucky and Vermont, and by far the most populous, with a population of more than 10m people, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
According to VIXIO GamblingCompliance forecasts, a North Carolina market with state-wide mobile sports wagering and multiple retail sportsbook locations would generate an estimated $615m in gross revenue by year three of operations, or more than double the market potential of Kentucky and Vermont combined.