Legislation that would authorize gambling on professional and college sports in North Carolina cleared its first House committee on Tuesday.
After efforts failed last year, Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) said he and the co-sponsors of House Bill 347 began work on how to make the legislation more palatable.
“This is a truly bipartisan effort.The four sponsors are two Republicans and two Democrats, and we’re joined by 52 other members of the House representing both parties. I hope whether you are for or against the bill, you appreciate the effort to move something in a truly collaborative fashion.”
Saine said the proposed tax rate in the bill is 14%, well above the previous version that had a tax rate of 8%.
“Through our efforts and conversations, we settled on a higher number. At a million dollars per license, that tops the licensing fees of any state,” Saine offered.
Rep. Zack Hawkins (D-Durham), a co-sponsor of the bill, said for those who view gambling as a vice, much like alcohol and cigarettes, the state can use the revenue for good.
Tax revenue from the bill would fund gambling addiction education and treatment programs through NCDHHS.
Every county would be eligible to apply for grants of about $10,000 to purchase youth sports equipment and facilities.
To further sweeten the deal, Rep. Hawkins said the new bill would support collegiate athletic programs at Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, North Carolina, A&T, North Carolina Central, UNC Asheville, UNC Penbrook, and Winston Salem State.
“We want to make sure that every single county, again, has something to get out of this bill,” pledged Hawkins.
Representative Jay Adams (R-Catawba) peppered the bill sponsors with questions.
Is there actually wagering going on during the game?
Could you place a second bet during the game?
Is there any apparatus available that would restrict betting by the players or by the families of the players?
Players and coaches are prohibited, but there would be no restrictions on their family members.
Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) moved to amend the bill to exclude the ability of someone to place a bet using credit card debt to make their wager.
“It’s one thing to responsibly use funds that you’ve earned and you have in the bank. And it’s another matter entirely to drive up a huge credit card debt to support gambling,” reasoned Butler. “I feel like this is a common sense amendment that would at least protect some folks from their impulsivity, if you will.”
“The responsibility does end up on the individual, the adult, to make their choice,” countered Rep. Saine.
Butler’s amendment failed 18-8.
Rep. John Autry (D-Mecklenburg) moved next to strip wagering on college sports from the legislation.
“I know we’re all big fans of college sports, and this bill, I’m afraid, would just sully that whole wonderful thing that we enjoy here in North Carolina, so please support the amendment,” urged Autry.
His amendment failed 19-7, with the bill sponsors noting that would reduce the revenue that could be generated from the bill by $85 million.
“What you would do is you’ll simply be funding projects in Virginia and Tennessee,” Saine said.”Because we know that there’s about $4 billion being bet in our state right now from North Carolinians, but that’s leaving our state.”
Butler told supporters it is “a fiction” to suggest that the amount of gambling is fixed, and will simply be shifted from an illegitimate offshore location to a safer regulated and controlled place.
She pointed to New Jersey where the $1.2 billion gambling threshold shifted to over $10 billion in four years. Thirteen percent of those who are doing gambling in New Jersey have a problem with it, according to Butler.
“Why do we want to facilitate something that we know has the capacity to destroy that many people’s families?”
Undeterred, the House Commerce committee voted in favor of legalizing sports wagering.
H 347 will be heard in the Finance Committee Wednesday with one additional committee discussing the bill before it moves to a floor vote in the state House.
Click below to hear more of Butler’s remarks:
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