The dream of passing legislation this year to legally launch online sports betting in North Carolina is hanging on by a thread.
North Carolina’s House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected one of the two pieces of legislation that would provide the legal foundation for mobile wagering in the Tar Heel State, voting down Senate Bill 688 at second reading by a vote of 52-49 against the measure.
The other piece of sports-betting legislation, Senate Bill 38, passed second reading by a 51-50 vote, but has since been pulled from the House calendar and sent back to the chamber's rules committee.
It was a shocking twist for supporters of online sports betting in North Carolina. The two bills had advanced through committees earlier in the week, only to hit a roadblock in the House as a whole.
Combined, the two bills would bring legal online sports betting to North Carolina via 10 to 12 licenses, with the wagering set to start on or after Jan. 1, 2023. However, the bills ran into opposition for a few different reasons, including an opposition to gambling in general, which is not unusual in the more socially conservative state.
“I will not vote for this bill, here or anywhere else,” Democratic Rep. Abe Jones said during a committee meeting on Tuesday. “It conflicts with my values.”
Jones wasn’t alone, and the rejection of SB 688 has put online sports betting in North Carolina in jeopardy. Retail sports betting is already happening in the state at two Native American casinos, but mobile wagering isn't legal yet.
Lawmakers still managed to strip out betting on all college sports before nudging SB 38 forward, which won’t sit well with bettors or bookmakers. The amended SB 38 will also have to head to the Senate for approval before Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper can sign it into law.
Whatever happens next will have to happen before June 30, when the North Carolina legislature is expected to adjourn. While the prospects of legal online sports betting launching in the state look bleak, there is still some hope in the assembly.
"We may end up with a bill before the end of session that will serve for sports betting," Republican Rep. Jason Saine told WRAL. "Don't know yet."