A bill that would bring an online form of legal sports betting to North Carolina is nearing the finish line in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 347 passed second reading by a vote of 66-45 on Tuesday. It now just needs to get through a third reading and a final vote that is expected on Wednesday to advance into the Senate.
The recent developments signal a high likelihood that online sports betting sites are coming to the Tar Heel State considering the Senate voted in favor of a gambling bill in 2021 and proposed last year's sports betting bill that the House killed.
North Carolina currently allows three tribal casinos to conduct sports wagering in the state, but HB 347 — which calls for the licensing of 10 to 12 sports betting sites — could open up another financial stream for the Tar Heel State. It was estimated by officials before Tuesday’s vote that North Carolina could bring in $60 million to $80 million in tax revenue if the bill becomes law.
The bill would go into effect early next year. Regulating sports betting in North Carolina would be the responsibility of the state's lottery commission. Retail sportsbooks can be established at professional stadiums, venues, and auto race tracks.
The final hurdle?
North Carolina came close last summer in the House but the Senate-backed bill ultimately failed due to pushback from socially conservative lawmakers. However, some of those legislators are no longer in the House.
HB 347 garnered nearly half of the entire chamber's sponsors, but it hasn't been easy. The bill has also undergone several amendments to get this far.
The inclusion of college and Olympic sports (which weren’t in last year’s bill), has been hotly debated, but it's survived a push to be eliminated from the bill. Horse racing, however, was prohibited Tuesday.
Support, though, seems to be in favor of pro-gambling. The NBA's Charlotte Hornets and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes have both lobbied for legal sports betting, and HB 347 was presented as a bipartisan bill.
While HB 347 still requires Senate approval and a signing by pro-sports betting Gov. Roy Cooper, a favorable vote on Wednesday appears to be the last major hurdle.