Senate lawmakers tentatively approved sports gambling in North Carolina on Wednesday. The narrow 26-21 vote, which didn’t follow party lines, broke precedent for Senate Republican leaders.
Senate Bill 688 would legalize betting on sports online, via mobile phone and in person at approved facilities in the immediate area of major sporting events. The North Carolina Lottery Commission would handle the regulation of the industry.
The state would raise money from the industry by getting an 8% cut of the proceeds and by charging for no more than 12 state licenses for online sports betting outlets, not counting additional tribal licenses.
Online gambling outlets would have to pay $500,000 for their initial license and then $100,000 annually to renew. The state would also require licenses and fees from vendors that supply licensed gambling operations.
The money would go to the state’s general fund “to support education,” according to sponsor Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir.
Perry acknowledged the difficulty of persuading many lawmakers to support the idea. He said it is an attempt to help raise revenue to help less-affluent rural counties construct more schools without having to raise property taxes on their fewer and fewer residents.
“Prohibition doesn’t work,” Perry told the Senate. “We know that activity takes place today, whether we like it or not.”
“I see this as a revenue bill,” said co-sponsor Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth. “Somebody said, ‘Well, it’s gambling.’ Well, we already have gambling. We’ve got the lottery. It’s here.”
The bill would also create a new fund to help attract major sporting events to the state.
Sen. Jim Burgin, R-Harnett, was the lone speaker against the measure on the Senate floor.
“This bill produces very little money, and it targets young people, and I plan to vote against it,” he said.