North Carolina Sports Betting Bill Odds Long as Lawmakers Hurry to Adjourn

Posted on: September 16, 2021, 10:35h. 

Last updated on: September 16, 2021, 03:11h.

North Carolina sports betting gained Senate approval in August after lawmakers there passed Senate Bill 688 by a vote of 26-19. This week, nearly a month later, legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Commerce for initial review.

North Carolina sports betting Raleigh
North Carolina Republican Rep. Destin Hall is seen during his confirmation as House rules chair in August of 2020. A bill approved by the Senate to legalize sports betting in the state, Hall says, might not be passed by the lower chamber in 2021. (Image: North Carolina General Assembly)

SB 688 seeks to legalize sports betting, with its operations largely conducted online. Because North Carolina does not have any commercial casinos or pari-mutuel facilities, the state statute would instead allow mobile sportsbooks like DraftKings and BetMGM to apply for operating licenses.

North Carolina’s professional sports venues, including the Spectrum Center, Bank of America Stadium, PNC Arena, and golf courses in Charlotte and Greensboro that host PGA Tour stops would qualify for retail sportsbooks and/or sports betting kiosks.

Senators passed the measure on August 19. Yesterday, September 15, the House assigned the legislation to its first of three potential committees.

I don’t know if it will pass or not, but we referred it out today,” said House Rules Chair Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell). “If those committee chairs want to hear it, they can.”

The time is ticking to review SB 688. After a lengthy and extended 2021 legislative session, lawmakers in the Raleigh capital are focused on more critical responsibilities.

Session Drags On

North Carolina lawmakers convened their 2021 session in January. The General Assembly was set to adjourn for the year in July. But its failures to pass critical governance resulted in lawmakers returning to the capital this month.

The two most pressing concerns that must be remedied before their 2021 adjournment include a new state budget and redistricting plan. Sports betting comes with far less importance.

It may just be that we run out of time in the long session to get it done,” Hall stated.

To reach a House floor vote, SB 688 first needs to be taken up and approved by the Senate Commerce Committee. Afterward, it would need to find similar support in both the House Finance and Rules committees.

North Carolina’s General Assembly endures full legislative sessions in odd years. In even years, state lawmakers also meet, but for shorter scheduled sessions. The “Short Session,” the University of North Carolina’s School of Government explains, typically convenes in May and runs through July.

Legislative Critics

North Carolina’s inability to pass a two-year state budget has drawn plenty of critics. Tom Campbell, a longtime political pundit in the state who sits in the NC Broadcasters Hall of Fame, wrote recently that the General Assembly should be ashamed.

“When the General Assembly convened the 2021 session Jan. 13, it was scheduled to adjourn July 2. Our lawmakers had three primary tasks — passing a new biennial state budget, drawing new districts for congressional, legislative, and local government elections, and appropriating a large accumulated surplus,” Campbell wrote recently in an op-ed titled, “North Carolina Is a Textbook on How Not to Run a State.”

On Sept. 13, they have been meeting eight months, and in baseball parlance, they are 0 for 3,” Campbell opined.

North Carolina, so far, has also swung and missed on sports betting. State fiscal projections say the state could receive upwards of $20 million annually from legal sports betting.