5/14 Forever: What’s Wrong With North Carolina? Legal Sports Betting Dies In House Vote

Since the Supreme Court revoked its federal ban on sports gambling with the May 14, 2018 decision in New Jersey vs. NCAA, momentum has grown in North Carolina to legalize sports betting statewide. 

Last week that effort reached a fever pitch, as North Carolina representatives conducted a series of dramatic votes on a pair of bills, passage of which would have legalized sports gambling across the state. 

Unfortunately for gambling proponents, the effort ultimately failed, and sports betting in North Carolina remains illegal.

Dead in the water. Back to square one... But for how much longer?  

Dimers.com contributor Mac Douglass digs into what went wrong, why and what hope there is for the future of legal sports betting in the Tar Heel State.


How Sports Betting Died in North Carolina

To understand what unfolded in the North Carolina state legislature on Wednesday, June 22, one must first understand there were two bills on which state legislators voted. Passage of both would have been required to legalize some form of sports gambling in the state. 

While one of these bills, SB 38, did in fact pass the House vote by a 51–50 margin, that bill’s predecessor, SB 688, lost by the same 51–50 tally, rendering the passage of SB 38 meaningless, and resulting in a rude halt to the aforementioned momentum.    

North Carolina Senate Bill 688  

The effort to bring sports gambling to North Carolina began with SB (Senate Bill) 688, a wide-ranging proposal, which, in its original form, would have legalized gambling on professional, collegiate, amateur, and electronic sports. But the specifics of SB 688 faced opposition long before the underlying legislation came to a vote. 

This led to the creation of an accompanying bill, SB 38, which consisted entirely of amendments and revisions to SB 688, and existed purely to address the objections of SB 688’s detractors. The advent of SB 38 did appear as though it would pave the way for legalization. Prior to Wednesday’s House vote, the North Carolina Senate passed SB 688, bolstering optimism the bill could succeed in the House as well.

That hope gave way to crushing disappointment when, instead, SB 688 failed by a single vote. 

SB Bill 38 

As stated, SB 38 owed its existence to its parent bill, SB 688, as the former consisted entirely of amendments and revisions that represented compromises with lawmakers who objected to the original proposal. 

For this reason, SB 38’s victory in the North Carolina House was hollow — neither bill could become law without the other — and with SB 688’s loss, legalized sports gambling in North Carolina was officially dead in the water… at least for now.

With that in mind, one may be tempted to believe an autopsy of SB 38 is redundant. 

The reality, however, is examining the bill’s contents provide crucial information on the attitudes of state legislators, and the potential path to future legalization. While the points below outline several of the most notable differences between SB 688 and SB 38, to fully comprehend the scope of the changes, one should review the language of SB 38 itself. 

  • Removal of collegiate and amateur sports—Amongst the most talked about alterations from SB 688 to SB 38 was the removal of collegiate and amateur sports, which left only professional sports, electronic sports, and “Any other event approved by the Commission,” on the list of activities eligible for gambling. This would have been a dramatic change anywhere, but was particularly noteworthy in the Tar Heel State, where collegiate sports, such as those played by the aptly named University of North Carolina Tar Heels, are massively popular.
  • Higher taxes and costlier licenses—Given the enormous economic impact of sports gambling on state revenue, it’s no surprise the debate revolved largely around the financials. For example, in its original form, SB 688 would have taxed gambling revenue at 8%, whereas SB 38 increased that rate to 14%. Likewise, under SB 688, institutions approved for sports wagering licenses would have been charged $500,000 each, whereas SB 38 doubled that cost to $1,000,000 per license.    

What happens next for Sports Betting in North Carolina? 

More than a week after the fateful House votes, there remains no definitive answer as to when North Carolina will come out of the dark ages on sports betting. 

On the one hand, the extraordinarily narrow defeat of SB 688, and the passage of SB 38, seem to be cause for optimism, as does Governor Roy Cooper’s general support for introducing sports gambling (and its accompanying revenue) to North Carolina. 

On the other hand, after SB 688’s defeat in House, the bill proceeded to lose yet another vote, which would have sent it back to the Rules, Calendars, and Operations committee for further debate. 

This suggests legal sports gambling is doomed to remain on ice in North Carolina; at least until the current legislative session ends with November’s elections. After that, and depending on the results, re-worked, or perhaps brand new legislation could re-enter the fray, with a reasonable likelihood of success. 

For those eager to place legal sports bets in North Carolina, there is no sugar-coating last week’s failure. It was an undeniable setback, with no clear path to redemption. 

Then again, given the excruciatingly narrow margin of SB 688’s defeat, the promise of enormous revenue if and when sports gambling is legalized, and the fact sports gambling has already been legalized in neighboring states Virginia and Tennessee, it’s reasonable to suspect a similar outcome in North Carolina is only a matter of time. 

We’ll just have to wait and see how much. 

Why not celebrate 5/14 Forever — and that you don't live in North Carolina — by securing yourself 5 $100 risk-free bets from PointsBet? Claim them ➡️ here ⬅️.


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