North Carolina Eyes Sports Betting Bill

North Carolina Sports Betting Bill

  • Tribes Are Always Given a Seat at the Table
  • Provisions of the Bill
  • Next Steps for SB 688

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Tar Heels might be on their way to getting sports betting on the books. Recently introduced, Senate Bill 688 is a bipartisan-sponsored bill that looks like it has some legs. With language including an 8% revenue share with North Carolina Education Lottery Commission offering sports betting licenses to tribal casinos and sporting venues (a growing trend in the United States), this bill has a surprising chance of being passed, but will likely need some work.

Tribal Casinos Will Want Online Bets Too

One major issue that we’re sure to see in the near future: at the moment, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians run the only two casinos in the state, and tribes all over the country have special federal rights over gambling revenue. Whenever you look at a state that’s about to legalize online betting, you’ll notice that the tribes are always given a seat at the table.

It’s anticipated that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will absolutely want to be able to expand their betting selections into the online marketplace alongside this new betting legislation. Currently, in-person sports betting is allowed at Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley, but the provisions of SB 688 are expected to expand that to online play as well.

Interestingly, the Catawba Indian Nation has also finalized agreements for their in-person betting locations, so we’re going to anticipate that they’ll want a piece of the action, too. Whether or not there will be enough room in the proposed market, however, is another story.

Provisions of the Bill Are Controversial

First off, the bill calls for 10 to 12 available online licenses. That’s a relatively low cap, but seeing as there are only three current or proposed tribal casinos in the state, everyone should be able to get a license who wants one. However, if lawmakers change the definition of “sports facility” or if lottery providers decide they want in on the practice of sports betting, the field might look a bit more crowded.

The bill is in its infancy, and many factors are at play. We could see local lottery vendors want a piece of the revenue, we could see an outcry from tribes that don’t want to have their federally-protected practice of gambling encroached on, etc.

Another caveat that has folks scratching their heads is the creation of a Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund to receive half of this tax revenue. Some lawmakers are wondering where this money is intended to go, or why NC doesn’t simply follow suit with other states and give revenues to education or public programs. Where the money will actually end up remains to be seen, and will likely be dictated in the coming weeks, as the legislative session ends in July.

What’s Next for North Carolina Sports Betting

Just because the bill has bipartisan sponsorship doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk– neither chamber has had their opportunity to vote on the bill or call for amendments yet. North Carolina sports betting is gaining some slow momentum, however– in 2019, tribal casinos won the vote on SB 154, allowing for sports betting to happen in-person at casino locations in NC. The next step for SB 688 is to get out of the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations, where it will be up for more debate. Hopefully, the provisions of the bill can be smoothed out by the time the legislative session ends, but we’re not holding our breath for sports betting in North Carolina at least until football season.

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Chris Altman

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor.   Email: [email protected]