On Wednesday, State Senator Jim Davis introduced sports betting bill S 154 to the state of North Carolina. The bill states that sports betting in North Carolina is defined as “wagers on the outcome of professional and collegiate sports.”
Davis expects the bill to be passed by the Senate within the month and anticipates that the bill will be signed into law by June.
The legislation would add sports wagering to the states Class III games, which in turn would allow for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to offer legal sports betting. The tribe operates two casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel.
“We, at Harrah’s Cherokee, are obviously very interested in the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding sports betting,” general manager Brooks Robinson said back in May 2018. “Keep in mind that Harrah’s Cherokee operates under conditions set forth by (the) gaming compact established between Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the State of North Carolina. Any change in that agreement is a subject that can only be addressed by the Tribe.”
Harrah’s Cherokee is located in Davis’ district, which is why tribes went to him to add sports betting to a list of permissible games.
“The Eastern Band are wanting to get into sports wagering, and wagering is legal now after the Supreme Court decision of May of last year overturning PASPA. It’s a legal enterprise and they want to expand to include wagering in my district, so I consented to file the bill and don’t expect it to have any problems getting passed.”
This isn’t the first time that Davis has tried to get gambling expansions passed at the request of the tribe. Two previous expansions achieved by Davis include allowing tables games and permitting the construction on multiple casinos in the state.
“Table games and slot machines and all those ancillary gambling opportunities are already legal in this state. This just expands it to cover sports wagering already deemed to be legal. The Eastern Band has been incredibly vigilant, been good stewards of the money.”
Mobile sports betting is not included in the bill. The tribe is only interested in having sports betting in-person at their casinos.
Many believe that mobile sports betting will produce greater revenues for the states, as it reaches a wider range of customers and can provide more convenience for bettors as opposed to having to travel to the casinos. According to Davis, at this point, the tribes have no interest in the idea of mobile sports betting.
“I’m in favor of restricting it, and that’s why my bill will not allow an app. The Eastern Band came to me with this proposal, and that’s what they wanted. They’re not interested in expanding it at this time, and probably have no interest in expanding in the future.”
It wasn’t until 2005 that North Carolina got a state lottery, the last state in the South to do so. Aside from the tribes, the North Carolina Education Lottery is the only other gambling stakeholder in the state.
“I have no idea if the lottery is interested in offering sports betting, but I find it highly unlikely to be expanded to include the lottery,” Davis said. “North Carolina is not set up to do that. I think it would be a lot more difficult to regulate.”
Even though North Carolina has a history of a conservative stance on gambling, Davis doesn’t expect the bill to face much resistance. He acknowledged that he had no trouble getting his two previous gambling expansions approved and that this should be no different.
“I know some people won’t vote for it because they have moral objections to wagering, but I don’t think it will be many. I’m not a fan of it myself, but it’s a legal enterprise and people aren’t forced to do it, so the Libertarian in me says to have at it.
Davis suggested that Representative Kevin Corbin will soon introduce a similar bill in the House. Corbin’s district also includes the Cherokee tribe.
With the House and Senate both holding a Republican majority, Davis doesn’t expect any issues with getting Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s signature on this bill.
The Senate bill will start in the Rules Committee, although Davis expects the majority of the bill will be filled in by the Finance Committee, of which Davis is a member.
The North Carolina General Assembly is expected to meet until the end of June to finish a budget for the next fiscal period that begins in July. If the process were to take longer, it could go into July.
North Carolina is the 30th state to introduce a sports betting bill so far this year.