With the end of the North Carolina Legislature’s 2021 regular session fast approaching, sponsors of bills that would authorize and regulate sports betting hope to see discussion of their legislation this month.

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New England Patriots Linebacker Kyle Van Noy pursues Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton in 2018 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Fans may be able to place wagers at the Panthers’ home field and other professional sports venues in North Carolina if a state legislative bill makes it into law. (Image: Mike McCarn/AP)

The session is scheduled to end just before Independence Day. Lawmakers will return for a special session in September, but intend to focus on redistricting at that time.

North Carolina sports betting expansion on table

Senate Bill 688, sponsored by Sens. Jim Perry and Paul Lowe, was referred to a Senate rules committee on April 8, where it remains stalled. Rep. Jason Saine also introduced House Bill 631 in April. A clerk attempting to clear bills assigned to the House Commerce Committee put Saine’s bill on the calendar for May 11, but Saine pulled his bill both because it wasn’t ready, and because he wants the Senate companion bill heard first.

Both bills would set a tax rate of 8% on wagers, a low number compared to most of the two dozen other states that have legalized sports betting. The legislation would allow the issuance of up to 12 online licenses and would permit professional sports facilities with larger capacities to establish onsite wagering. This means fans may be able to place bets at the home stadiums of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, the NFL’S Carolina Panthers, and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened sportsbooks in their two North Carolina casinos in March. Although legislation permitting the sportsbooks passed in 2019, the state and the tribes had to agree to a revised gaming compact. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed talks, with the compact finally revamped last November after which, the interested parties had to wait for approval by the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Sponsors believe discussion will occur this month

Before the Legislature takes action on the pending legislation, the bills need to be debated. With just weeks left in the fiscal year, the North Carolina Legislature has been focused on its biennial budget, with the House and Senate finally agreeing on a spending plan in the past week. With that compromise done, both Perry and Saine recently expressed optimism that lawmakers will now turn their attention to other legislation, such as sports betting.

“I think we’re pretty close to starting to get that bill moving in the Senate,” Saine told Play Georgia.

Saine said that, by the end of this month, he should have an idea if sports betting legislation “has wings or not in North Carolina.”

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