Supporters of legalizing online sports gambling are confident they have the votes to pass a bill this session, just months after failing by a single vote on the House floor.
However, a coalition of North Carolina professional sports teams — big backers of legalization — are seeking changes that would aid their bottom lines but could splinter the stakeholder group that has supported legislation for nearly three years.
The teams want eight of 12 operator licenses available in the state to be allocated to them. Last year’s failed legislation outlined an application process for mobile gambling operators to secure 10 to 12 licenses.
“It gives us a better opportunity to maximize the revenue,” Carolina Hurricanes team president Don Waddell told WRAL. “We can’t get money from gambling. We’re going to get money from sponsorship and if we do a restaurant or something like that. So this gives us a better opportunity to capitalize on the amount of money that these people are going to make.”
Under their plan, the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL), Carolina Panthers (NFL), Charlotte Hornets (NBA), Charlotte FC (MLS), NC Courage (NWSL), Charlotte Motor Speedway, PGA Tour and NASCAR would each receive a license, allowing them to partner with a mobile operator. The teams would pay the same fee for the licenses — $1 million in the final legislation that failed in the House — but they would control it, providing leverage to make a more lucrative deal.
“All the teams agree with it,” Waddell said.
Gambling operators would prefer more licenses be available through the competitive application process. The online sports gambling market is dominated by several brands. FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars account for nearly 90% of market share in the states with legalization with FanDuel holding about half of that itself.
With fewer licenses available through the application process, smaller outfits could be left out or have no choice but to partner with a team, and any disagreements between supporters like operators and teams could complicate passage of the proposed legislation.
Many states that have legalized sports gambling have allocated or “tethered” licenses to in-state professional teams, racetracks or existing casinos.
“That sounds good because, of course, that benefits the hometown folks,” said Rep. Robert Reives, a Chatham County Democrat who voted against the legislation last year. “But again, I’d hesitate just because I really need to see language. One thing I’ve learned up here is a lot of things sound great until somebody writes it out.”
State lawmakers, who opened the new session on Wednesday, return to Raleigh on Jan. 25 for legislative business. In the 120-member House, where a contentious debate ended with a one-vote defeat for legalization in June, there are 28 new representatives, including 25 first-time lawmakers. The 50-member Senate has 12 new members. New faces — including a stronger GOP representation in both chambers — could tip the scale.Under the legislation proposed last year, sports gambling could bring $50 million in tax revenue to the state …….