In a perhaps unexpected turn of events, a North Carolina bill, HB 347 has been proposed to bring mobile sports wagering to the state. The bill has been filed by Rep. Jason Saine and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group, proposing to allow mobile and online sports wagering across the state from the start of 2024.

What does the North Carolina bill look like?

The bill suggests allowing up to twelve operators to acquire a five-year licence for $1 million each. The betting would be regulated by the North Carolina State Lottery Commission, and the bill would permit betting on professional, college, electronic and Olympic sports – making it one of the most wide-ranging in the United States.

Where will the tax go?

The bill proposes a tax rate of 14 percent, and specifies with great granularity how the majority of tax revenue would be split. Approximately $2 million of proposed tax income would go to North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, specifically ring-fenced for gambling education and treatment programs.

In addition, $1 million will go to North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to provide counties grants of up to $10,000 for youth facility upgrades and sports equipment. Additional tax revenue will be distributed between the athletic departments of various universities: including Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University.

The remainder would be distributed towards the above universities (10 percent), the North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund (30 percent) and the General Fund (60 percent).

Saine has estimated that the bill could bring revenue of at least $50 million annually to the state. Currently in North Carolina, only in-person NC sports wagering is legal at the states’ two tribal casino properties. Tribal sports betting became legal way back in 2019, where North Carolina was one of the first states to legalize sports wagering following the repeal of PASPA. The bill, upon passing, read just a page and a half as it simply amended the existing tribal gaming compact to extend the Class III games that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians could offer to include sports wagering.

Sports wagering is currently offered at the Eastern Band’s two casino properties: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel.

The bill to legalize mobile sports wagering has bipartisan support, with the other main sponsors being Republican Rep. John Bell, and Democratic Rep. Zach Hawkins and Rep. Ashton Clemmons. Last year the state was close to legalizing but fell by a small number of votes; it’s understandable why Rep. Saine is so confident of passing this year.

North Carolina’s neighboring states include Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia as well as the obvious South Carolina. Tennessee and Virginia are the two main states that have legalized mobile wagering and thus provide a compelling economic case for the legal rollout of mobile sports wagering. Legislation has recently died in Georgia for another year and although South Carolina has legislation in motion, it’s considered unlikely.

North Carolina would undoubtedly provide a small boost for commercial operators, but with the carrot being dangled on Texas sports wagering and California sports betting, it’s understandable that focus is elsewhere.