$100M in tax revenue? Legalizing sports gambling in North Carolina sparks debate as vote nears

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Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Legal sports gambling could quickly add $100M in tax revenue
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A Senate committee discussed HB 347 Tuesday afternoon, as lawmakers consider moving forward with sports gambling legalization in North Carolina.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Senate committee discussed HB 347 Tuesday afternoon, as lawmakers consider moving forward with sports gambling legalization in North Carolina.

A similar measure failed in the House last session, but that chamber already passed HB 347 this year.

The legislation would authorize the North Carolina Lottery Commission to allow up to 12 operator licenses in the state, with application fees of $1 million.

"In a short period of time, (we'll) have roughly $500 million a month, $6 billion a year wagered by people in North Carolina. You'll have new businesses here, licensee licensed betting operators offering service. There'll be jobs associated with it," said Bill Squadron, an Assistant Professor Sport Management at Elon.

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Analysis conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group, a Pennsylvania-based company, on behalf of the advocacy group Greater Carolina, predicted North Carolina could see about $509 million in gross gaming revenue by the third year of legalization. The figure is based off patterns from eight other states - Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York - utilizing respective population, state income, and number of professional and college teams in the state.

When factoring in the proposed 18% tax rate, that could mean nearly $92 million for the state. Those funds are earmarked toward athletics initiatives, smaller sports programs within the UNC system and problem-gambling programs.

"From the experience we've seen in other states, I think it will be a very positive step for the state. A lot of economic activity, jobs, tax revenue. I think we can see, you know, depending, like I said, on the tax rate, you know, in the very first year getting close to $100 million in tax revenue, which can be used for all kinds of good things for the state," said Squadron.

While North Carolinians are able to wager on sports on tribal lands, Squadron notes the prospect of mobile gaming represents a far bigger audience.

However, opponents believe the figures being shared are misleading.

"It actually undermines state tax revenues because the social costs are at least $3-12 for every $1 in new revenues. What is that? New addicted gamblers, new bankruptcies as people lose their money. New crime as people lose their money and resort to crime," said John Kindt, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois, who is critical of legalized sports gambling.

Despite sports gambling only being allowed for adults 21 years and older, Kindt believes people younger could be impacted.

"I have my own grandkids asking me how they can gamble when they're watching TV because they're constantly being hit with advertisements on their cell phones, on their iPads, on their computers. And I have to explain to them that it's illegal and the harms of it," said Kindt.

ABC11 reached out to the Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Panthers, and Charlotte FC to learn of any plans to implement sports gambling within the in-arena or in-stadium experience, but did not receive a response prior to publication.