Legislation to authorize sports betting has fallen at the last hurdle in the North Carolina House, as lawmakers narrowly rejected the bill.
The margin was so narrow it came down to one vote, with the House voting 51-50 not to approve of two measures that, when combined, would have established the rules to regulate sports betting in the state.
The first major stumbling block occurred on Wednesday when the House voted by a similar 51-50 margin for a supplemental measure. This measure strongly focused on exactly how the gambling operators would be taxed and precisely where the proceeds would go.
North Carolina is a traditionally conservative state and many lawmakers and critics of the legalization bill took issue with it creating problem gambling. They argued it would lead to an increase in gambling addicts, increases in theft, embezzlement and high levels of debt.
Catawba County Republican Rep. Jay Adams told the House floor: “This is just another opportunity to create unfortunate opportunities for people who can’t resist.”
The first of the two measures had already taken a hit when the chamber voted for an amendment that removed college sports from the list of games on which customers could wager.
Neighboring states in the South have seen sports betting take off since 2018, with both Virginia and Tennessee embracing legalization.
North Carolina is viewed as an untapped market, with the ninth-largest population of any state and several major-league sports franchises including college basketball, NASCAR and golf. Legalization of the bill would have authorized between ten and 12 interactive sports operators in the state, starting from 1 January 2023.
However, proponents of legalization believe that the bill isn't finished. Lincoln County Republican Rep. Jason Saine said: “It is not totally dead… sports wagering is going to remain an issue for the state of North Carolina because states around us are doing it.”
Mecklenburg County Democrat Rep. Wesley Harris commented: “I understand the concerns of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but I also disagree with them… the black market does exist and people are already gambling. But there is no regulation and there’s no help for those people.”