Things move pretty quickly when there’s money on the line.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed HB 347 into law on June 14, making sports betting legal in North Carolina. For six months, online sports books made their cases for inclusion and on Wednesday, a date was set.
Sports betting becomes legal in NC on March 11, the day before the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament begins in (sigh) Washington, DC.
No, we won’t have the games in Greensboro this year, but we will be able to place bets on our phones!
This form of gambling falls under the purview of the State Lottery Commission, which is holding up to 11 slots for online gaming purveyors; seven have already applied. And each must partner with a physical location in NC — a pro team or a facility that hosts professional sporting events. The only one in the Triad, so far, is at Sedgefield Country Club, which has yet to form a partnership with a gaming franchise.
But they will, probably before the weekend. Because things move pretty quickly when there’s money on the line.
If you’re wondering: We are not against the legalization of sports gambling. We believe in personal freedom and responsibility, and we know that millions of Americans bet on sports all the time, whether the bookie is legit or not. It generates perhaps $100 billion annually, and it’s ridiculous for a sports-crazy state like NC not to get in on the action.
But to be sure: This will bring pain to many North Carolinians. Gambling can be an addiction, just like tobacco, alcohol, shopping and video games — all of which, by the way, are legal.
But gambling can be different. You can only drink so much Jack Daniels, but it’s possible to gamble away one’s entire life savings on a Sunday afternoon.
The scourge of gambling addiction is addressed in the bill, requiring all ads for these services to include information about gambling hotlines, and earmarks $2 million to the Dept. of Health & Human Services to establish “gambling addiction education and treatment programs.”
This is, of course, completely inadequate. The General Assembly estimates that sports betting will generate about $65 million in its first year, garnered from an 18.5 percent tax on the sportsbooks and could reach $1 billion within five years. That’s a lot of pie to spread around.
If NC wants to reap the benefits of sports betting, it must address the aggravating factors. And it should devote the same percentage of their take — 18.5 percent — to the effort. That could be as much as $12 million, enough to establish a meaningful response to the coming crisis.
If you or someone you know is suffering from gambling addiction, visit ncpgambling.org or call 1.800.GAMBLER.
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