North Carolina Sports-Betting Bill Clears Chamber While Georgia Efforts Fade

March 30, 2023
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One southeastern U.S. state took its biggest step yet toward sports-betting legalization, but another saw its 2023 session end with legislation dying once again.

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One southeastern U.S. state took its biggest step yet toward sports-betting legalization, but another saw its 2023 session end with legislation dying once again.

A bill to legalize mobile sports betting in North Carolina was passed on the House floor Wednesday (March 29) by a vote of 64 to 45, sending the legislation to the Senate for its consideration.

Passage of House Bill 347 was a major step forward because a similar bill failed on the House floor last year. North Carolina currently allows retail sports betting at tribal casinos.

Under the legislation, the North Carolina State Lottery Commission would issue between ten and 12 mobile sports-betting licenses that would be untethered to any physical location or stakeholder.

Professional sports facilities in the state would also be able to operate “places of public accommodation” where players must still use an interactive wagering account but could place wagers using cash.

Licensed operators would pay a $1m license fee and a 14 percent tax rate on sports wagering revenues. The bill proposes full promotional play tax deductions through January 2025, limited deductions in 2025 and 2026, and no deductions for promotional play beginning in 2027.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Georgia, the state’s legislative session came to an end Wednesday night without any further discussion of sports betting.

Efforts appeared to have died earlier this month when two different sports-betting proposals failed to receive the needed majority in the Senate and a separate bill failed to receive a vote in the House ahead of the legislature’s crossover deadline.

However, Senate leaders, including Republican Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, attempted to revive sports-betting hopes by gutting a bill previously set to name an official soap box derby for the state and replacing it with new sports-betting language, and then hastily passing it through a Senate committee in hopes of getting it to the floor.

Much like in previous years, one of the obstacles to sports-betting legislation is Georgia’s turbulent political landscape.

Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly, as well as the governor’s mansion, but Republican leadership could not secure enough Republican votes to pass sports-betting legislation without help from Democrats.

For their part, Democrats took a stance against helping Republicans push through legislation in protest to Republicans passing a bill limiting access to healthcare treatments for transgender children.

Ultimately, the failure of sports-betting legislation for another year will now likely lead to continued debate as to whether a constitutional amendment is required to authorize mobile sports wagering in the Peach State.

A constitutional amendment would require a voter referendum that could be held no earlier than November 2024, and given that delay, backers this year argued that an amendment was not required under Georgia law.

Still, with a shorter timeframe between the passage of a bill in the 2024 session and voter approval in November, a constitutional amendment may once again become the preferred route for legislators, particularly those who are on the fence and may wish to kick the issue to voters instead.

A bill proposing a constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the legislature, plus a majority of voter support.

Additional reporting by Chris Sieroty

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