It took several weeks, but North Carolina has taken one step closer to expanding its gaming opportunities.
The latest good sign is that a bill, which would study whether to legalize sports betting and form a statewide Gaming Commission to run it, passed the North Carolina Senate on Thursday and is now heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk for a signature.
The measure, which had been heavily amended in recent weeks, passed the Senate 44-1 on Wednesday and passed the House 97-12 on Thursday.
Over the past several weeks, the House and Senate went back and forth on passing a Gaming Commission bill.
The idea behind that bill, SB 574, was that it would form a Gaming Commission, a regulatory body that would not only oversee the current gambling outlets but also explore new ways to grow the industry in the state.
But the bill passed Thursday instead tasks the state Lottery Commission to study both sports betting and whether to even form a statewide Gaming Commission.
This comes on the heels of the state legalizing sports betting at two Native American casinos run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, though bets must be placed in-person. It wasn’t a close vote either as the House passed the bill, SB 154, by a count of 90-27 while the Senate cleared it 43-7.
The more comprehensive bill passed Thursday could pave the way for a growth spurt in sports betting and gaming in the state. They could do things like study the value of legalizing online and mobile betting, or examine what impact legislation in nearby states has on their market.
It’s expected that – like other states – North Carolina will consider the idea of the professional teams hosting sportsbooks, which means we could possibly see the Carolina Panthers or the Charlotte Hornets have sportsbooks on-site. Keep in mind that it will take time for the Lottery Commission to execute the study and return results; it has until April 15, 2020 to report its findings to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.
The state won’t make any major actionable decisions before then.
For most veteran sports bettors, it will seem odd to claim that legalizing sports betting at a couple of land-based casinos in the rural, Western part of the state is a win. But considering the landscape in the region, North Carolina looks like an early adopter. South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Virginia and Kentucky are Southern states that don’t allow legal sports betting.
Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi do.
North Carolina has an opportunity to really get a jump on legal gaming, and sport betting in particular. The Southeast states have shown to be averse to gambling – at least historically – but with North Carolina making a push and West Virginia and Mississippi already on board, others states could be pushed to join the wave that has happened since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way in 2018.