Supporters expect to introduce legislation this week to legalize online sports gambling in North Carolina. A similar effort failed in the North Carolina House last year by a single vote.
North Carolina state lawmakers are expected to introduce new mobile sports gambling legislation as early as this week with supporters optimistic they can reverse last year's narrow vote against the proposal.
More than 150 bills have been filed in the North Carolina House this session, but bill drafters and lawmakers haven't yet completed work on legislation to legalize sports betting on electronic and mobile devices.
Betting on sports is legal in North Carolina at three tribal casinos. Virginia and Tennessee are among the two dozen states to legalize mobile sports gambling. Lawmakers in Georgia, Texas, Missouri and Vermont, among other states, are currently debating legalization.
Some North Carolina residents are making the drive across the Virginia border to place bets.
Gov. Roy Cooper, an avid Carolina Hurricanes fan and attendee at Duke-North Carolina men's basketball games in Durham and New Orleans in the last year, has consistently backed sports gambling in recent years.
He told reporters last week that he expected the legislation to pass.
"We're working with trying to make sure we get good legislation that is fair to the taxpayers, but also recognizes something that is going on anyway," Cooper told reporters. "So we might as well get benefit for our schools and for our state out of it, so we'll see how it goes." Proposed renderings for a potential remodel of Raleigh's PNC Arena have included a sportsbook or sports lounge. North Carolina's professional teams, including the Hurricanes, Panthers and Hornets, are in favor of legalizing sports gambling and have pushed for their own licenses in the new legislation.
"It's meaningful to our tenants that we have this," said Philip Isley, chairman of the Centennial Authority, which owns PNC Arena. "There's no big push on my part other than if you do this, the PNC Arena area, the Carter-Finley area is a really good place for this to have the first one in the Triangle."
The area's college teams, including NC State which plays men's basketball at PNC Arena, have not publicly declared their support or opposition to mobile sports gambling. Betting on college sports was stripped out of the bill by an amendment last year on the House floor. But supporters plan to allow betting on college sports in their new legislation this year.
The NC House voted against legalization last year by a single vote. Supporters are confident that changes in the composition of the House and another year of intense lobbying efforts are enough to achieve victory this year. A bill passed the NC Senate.
"We've had months now to really have a chance to sit down, talk, see how this all fits into an overall economic development scheme," said House Democratic leader Robert Reives, who voted against the legislation last year and has not committed to voting for it this session.