North Carolina is far behind the curve when it comes to legal weed, which could take another five years to be legalized, and liquor laws that designate the state as the sole source of alcoholic spirits. Some of our more rural counties haven’t even gotten microbreweries or bougie cupcakes yet.

We’re looking pretty good on sports betting, though, which right now is legal only in the two Cherokee casinos in the western mountains. But it’s not like everyone isn’t doing it anyway.

The bill, SB 688, is making its way through the legislature in this short session with bipartisan support, spearheaded by our own Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), who teamed up with Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry (R-Lenoir). It passed a couple rounds of votes in August 2021, but stalled out during the budget standoff towards the end of last session. Now it’s back, with the understanding that it may be tweaked before implementation. And a lot of the people who were against the bill in August like it better when the tax rate jumps from 8 percent, where the current version sets it, to 14 percent, which is still a point less than Virginia’s 15 percent tax on the gross revenue of the sports books.

This version of the bill allows for “at least 10, but not more than 12” gaming licenses in the state, and it reads as if every bettor must be registered in order to place a wager. No gambling on youth sports, injuries or penalties, outcomes of replay reviews and no horse racing. But college and amateur sports are covered in the bill, as well as E-sports, which shows remarkable foresight from our un-hip legislature.

As it stands, sports betting could add up to $8 million to state coffers in its first year, topping off around $25 million as the market matures, according to a fiscal report. And half of that would go to a fund used to recruit more sporting events to the state, with generous chunks sliced off for the General Fund and DHHS for “problem gambling treatment.”

So it looks like all bases are covered for smooth passage. And if it doesn’t pass, everyone will just play online or with their neighborhood barroom bookie, like they’re doing right now.

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