Senators have tentatively approved sports gambling in North Carolina on Wednesday. The unprecedented vote for Senate Republican leaders did not follow the party lines and ended up 26-21.
The vote broke Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s long standing precedent of allowing floor votes only on bills supported by a majority of his 28-member caucus. 16 Republicans voted against it on Wednesday, while 10 -including Berger- voted in favor of it.
There was one abstention and five absences. 5 Democrats voted against the bill while 16 voted for it. The final Senate floor vote on the measure is set for Thursday. It then goes to the House.
Senate Bill 688 aims to legalize online sports betting via mobile phone and in person at approved facilities in the immediate area of major sporting events, with the The North Carolina Lottery Commission as regulatory entity.
Under the terms of the bill, the state would keep an 8% cut of the proceeds and will charge for no more than 12 state licenses for online sports betting outlets, not counting additional tribal ones.
Online gambling outlets would have to pay $500.000 for their initial license and then $100,000 annually to renew them. The state would also require licenses and fees from vendors that supply licensed gambling operations.
The money would go to the state’s general fund “to support education”, according to the sponsor Senator Jim Perry.
Perry acknowledged the difficulty of persuading many lawmakers to support the idea. He said it is an attempt to help raise revenue to help less-affluent rural counties construct more schools without having to raise property taxes on their fewer and fewer residents, as reported by Wral. The bill would also create a new fund to help attract major sporting events to the state.
“Prohibition doesn't work,” Perry told the Senate. “We know that activity takes place today, whether we like it or not.”
“I see this as a revenue bill,” said co-sponsor Senator Paul Lowe. “Somebody said, ‘Well, it's gambling.’ Well, we already have gambling. We’ve got the lottery. It's here.”
Senator Jim Burgin, opposed the measure allegating “this bill produces very little money, and it targets young people, and I plan to vote against it,” he said.