North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signs sports betting bill in Charlotte

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Gov. Roy Cooper signs sports betting bill in Charlotte
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The governor signed NC sports betting House Bill 347 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has made sports betting legal in the state starting next year.

The governor signed House Bill 347 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

"This legislation will help North Carolina compete, make sure taxpayers receive a share, create many good-paying jobs and foster strong economic opportunity," Cooper said. "As we move forward, we should work to make sure more of the revenue is used to invest in our public schools, teachers and students."

WATCH: Gov. Cooper answers questions after signing bill into law

Cooper was joined at the signing ceremony by representatives from professional sports organizations including the Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Charlotte Football Club, NASCAR and the PGA Tour. The governor was also joined by Rep. Zack Hawkins, Rep. Jason Saine and Sen. Paul Lowe for the bill signing.

"We are extremely grateful for all of the hard work by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to get this bill to the finish line," said Don Waddell, President and General Manager of the Hurricanes. "We will now have the opportunity to build a world-class sports-wagering facility to expand the entertainment options around PNC Arena. Our plans will also include a restaurant and bar available to fans every day, helping to spur additional development in and around the arena district."

The bill allows online betting on college, pro and other sports.

It also creates eight in-person sportsbooks at venues across the state. It will also allocate money for gambling addiction programs, but some say it's not enough.

"Today is a very exciting day for sports fans across the state of North Carolina," the Charlotte Hornets said. "We are honored that Governor Cooper chose to sign today's historic sports wagering legislation at Spectrum Center, and we thank him for his leadership regarding this issue. We also would like to thank the members of the North Carolina House and Senate for their vision, effort and support throughout the process. This legislation provides fans another exciting opportunity to engage with their favorite sports."

House Bill 347 charges the North Carolina State Lottery Commission with regulating sports wagering and being responsible for issuing licenses and collecting any license application fees. Licenses will be valid for five years and types of licenses include interactive sports wagering licenses, service provider licenses and sports wagering supplier licenses.

A recent NCAA survey found nearly 60% of 18- to 22-year-olds surveyed have placed sports bets. According to the North Carolina Problem Gambling Program, younger people experience gambling problems more often than adults.

Legal sports gambling in North Carolina is only available right now at the state's only three casinos, which are operated by two American Indian tribes. Essentially the only other legal gambling in the state is a lottery that began in 2006.

Otherwise, bill sponsors said North Carolina residents were already gambling on sports through illegal bookies or offshore workarounds, and that authorizing, regulating and taxing the activity was the best way to control it.

"This is something that has been going on. The North Carolina taxpayers should get the benefit of this," Cooper said this week on the "Ovies & Giglio" podcast show. "It's pretty good legislation now."

Opponents of the bill - a mix of social conservatives and some liberal-leaning Democrats - described the measure as a huge expansion of state-sanctioned gambling that would siphon money from people who can least afford to bet, leading to more gambling addictions and related societal ills.

Despite some improvements, "this predatory gambling bill is still predatory," Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Guilford County Democrat, said during Wednesday's floor debate. "It's going to hurt North Carolina, and it doesn't look like we're going to achieve very much in exchange."

While betting could begin as early as January, the commission would have until June 2024 to open the betting.

About half of the states allow mobile or online sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association. They include the North Carolina border states of Virginia and Tennessee.

Saine, a Lincoln County Republican, and a chief bill sponsor, said "what's happening just across our borders" played a role in gaining the support from colleagues needed for passage this year.

"At some point, they know that we're losing money to other states, so I think that was a big driver in either changing minds or getting people that have not considered it before on board," Saine said after the vote.

The legislation also would allow sportsbooks to open at or near several pro sports venues, including those where NASCAR races and big golf tournaments are held. There people could make cash bets without creating online accounts through the betting companies that operate them.

The final version also authorizes separate licenses for horse-race gambling operators to offer thoroughbred racing and would authorize the commission to set rules for live horse racing in the state.

The legislation would tax sports wagering at a rate equal to 18% of gross betting revenue minus winnings. The earlier proposal in the House set a similar 14% tax with more deductions.

After expenses, legislative analysts estimate the state would take in $71 million annually by mid-2028 from both sports wagering and horse racing. Much of the sports wagering tax revenues would go to local, regional and state athletics initiatives, athletic programs at most University of North Carolina system schools and problem-gambling programs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.