With bipartisan support, it's a good bet sports gambling will become legal in NC

Posted July 21, 2021 4:41 p.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2021 5:49 p.m. EDT

Months after filing legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting across North Carolina, state leaders, including the governor, are quietly working to sway enough lawmakers to pass it.

Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for sports betting to get serious consideration at the General Assembly.

Now, Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, who filed Senate Bill 688 in April, is trying to convince his caucus to go along with regulation he estimates could raise $40 million to $50 million each year in revenue for the state.

“We continue to have conversations. It’s complicated,” Perry told WRAL Investigates. “Members were shocked when we showed them how easy it is to download an app or go on a website and actually open an account and place a bet. They didn’t know that was occurring already.”

Instead of raising property taxes on eastern North Carolina communities he represents, Perry said he believes taxing what online betting sites are already doing makes better sense.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, agrees.

“With the internet, people are doing it, and it’s very difficult for law enforcement to stop it. So, we might as well control it and get the revenue from it,” Cooper explained in an interview with WRAL News last week.

With sports wagering already legal at the recently opened “Book” run by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee and cleared for the Catawba Nation in North Carolina, the governor argues it’s time to establish licenses for a limited number of businesses to conduct regulated online-based betting across the state.

“I think having the state control it and being able to get some of the revenue to invest in education and health care and some of the things that we need to do [would be good], as long as we put the guardrails that are there,” he said.

Perry remains optimistic, but he isn’t ready to bet on passage this session. He says his own mother opposes the bill. Negotiations continue behind the scenes. The senator says some of his colleagues raised concerns about state government getting involved in sports books, while others worry about the prospect of gambling addictions. Perry said he expects a public hearing on the sports betting legislation sometime in August.

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