North Carolina Governor Supports a Move to Legalize Online Sports Betting

North Carolina Governor Supports a Move to Legalize Online Sports Betting
By Ron Fritz

When the North Carolina legislature considers a bill to legalize online sports betting in the state this year, Gov. Roy Cooper will be watching.

If a bill gets to his desk, the Democratic governor is likely to sign it. Real money online casinos are not being considered.

In an appearance on the “ACC Now Podcast” with Raleigh News & Observer columnist Luke DeCock, Cooper said he would welcome online sports betting.

”The issue is will North Carolina try to be on the cutting edge for the technology jobs and other employment that it will create and plus be able to get state taxpayers their cut or are we just going to let it happen all around us? I think it’s time for us to step up and do it," Cooper said on the podcast posted this week.

During the podcast, Cooper, who said he is a big sports fan, talked about the North Carolina-Duke basketball rivalry and his own basketball ability (including blocking a shot by UNC legend Phil Ford) before discussing sports betting just before the 20-minute mark.

North Carolina’s online sports betting legislation is Senate Bill 688. The bill made it through the Senate in August 2021 but didn’t get out of the House. It should be considered again this year when lawmakers return for their session.

US Sports Betting is Booming

There is legal and regulated sports betting in about 30 states and D.C. Two of the states to launch in the last 15 months are North Carolina’s neighbors — Tennessee (November 2020) and Virginia (January 2021).

In December, Tennessee posted $341.8 million in sports betting handle. The state’s adjusted gross income for December was $16.5 million and the privilege tax was $3.3 million. Virginia had a sports betting handle of $426.6 million in December. But revenue and taxes in December were down 66% and 59%, respectively, from November.

New York, which launched online sports betting on Jan. 8, saw a record $1.625 billion wagered from the start until Jan. 30. That easily set a new national record for monthly handle. New Jersey and Nevada are the two other states to top $1 billion in monthly handle.

Retail Sports Betting in NC

A retail sports betting bill was passed in July 2019 by the General Assembly and signed into law by Cooper later that month, making in-person sports betting legal at the Eastern Band of Cherokee casinos in Cherokee and Murphy.

A gaming compact between the state and tribe still had to be worked out to allow sports betting and it gained final federal approval in March 2021. North Carolina bettors were able to place legal sports bets later that month.

”The Book” sportsbooks at the Harrah’s Casinos in western North Carolina took the first bets on March 18 before the first games of the 2021 NCAA Tournament later that day.

NC Online Sports Betting Bill Highlights

SB 688 allows for 10 to 12 mobile sports betting licenses. In addition, sports facilities with a capacity of 17,000 (stadiums and arenas), could have sports betting lounges or that type of site within close proximity.

The tax rate of 8% is one of the lower in the U.S. and that’s something Cooper said on the podcast might have to be looked at, according to the News & Observer. Virginia and Tennessee have higher rates and New York taxes operators at a 51% rate.

“The legislation that is being considered, I think, probably there needs to be more state tax dollars involved in this, a bigger cut for the people,” Cooper said on the podcast.

An interesting aspect of the bill is that some proceeds from sports betting would go toward attracting special events, such as golf tournaments and auto races. Other funds would to go fighting gambling addiction and the rest would be allocated to the state’s general fund.

Before it gets final approval, there will likely be amendments, but it seems like online sports betting is closer than ever in North Carolina.

”… I think there needs to be a free and open debate. We need to do what’s best for the people of North Carolina and I support the move toward it,” Cooper said on the podcast.



Ron Fritz is a former editor for

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