A bill that could legalize online sports betting sites in the Tar Heel State has cleared a legislative committee — but it still has a long way to go before mobile bookmakers can open up shop in North Carolina.
House Bill 347 was passed by the North Carolina House of Representatives' commerce committee on Tuesday by a vote of 17-10. The legislation will now move to the chamber’s finance committee as it continues its long and by-no-means-guaranteed-successful journey through the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh.
There was a motion Tuesday to remove wagering on college events from the bill’s proposed version of North Carolina sports betting. That was a contentious issue during last year’s ultimately failed effort to legalize mobile wagering in the state, and it appears it could rear its head again.
A dozen or so books
Among other things, H.B. 347 provides for between 10 and 12 online sportsbooks in North Carolina, which would be subject to a 14% privilege tax. Bettors would have to be 21 or older and be physically located in the state to wager.
North Carolina has legal sports betting at three casinos in the state, but it lacks the mobile-wagering options of neighbors Tennessee and Virginia. However, if North Carolina were to legalize online sportsbooks, it’s almost certain they would become the dominant form of event wagering in the state overnight.
Geolocation data compiled recently by GeoComply suggests that people in North Carolina are already trying to access online sports betting sites in other states and are trekking across state lines into Virginia to access mobile sportsbooks there.
Still, the logic of legalizing online sports betting sites in North Carolina because it's happening in the state already or because people are commuting to Virginia to wager didn't sit right with one lawmaker.
“If somebody is addicted enough to gambling to drive to Virginia to place a bet, well, then they need to call the hotline immediately,” Rep. Deb Butler said during the committee meeting. “But it is a fiction to suggest that the amount of gambling in this state, or anywhere else is, is fixed and that we're just shifting it from the illegitimate, offshore place that it's currently located to a regulated and controlled place. We know that gambling is going to exponentially increase in North Carolina if we go down this path.”