This week, sports betting — online and otherwise — became legal in the state of North Carolina.

We’re okay with this. Much like alcohol during the Prohibition years, wagering of this sort has been going on under the radar in NC for centuries, and it’s high time we capture some of that revenue for the people of the state.

Yes, gambling can be an addiction — again, like alcohol. But if we’re being consistent, we must acknowledge that betting on sports is a better prospect than, say, buying a lottery ticket — which is legal — or playing video poker — also legal, sorta. Betting on sports is actually one of the very few ways in which gamblers can turn profits over the long haul, using public information like injury reports or deep statistics to give them an edge.

But casinos weren’t built on winners, and it’s true that sports gambling will generate a lot of revenue for the state. It’s a hefty tax — 18 percent

The NC General Assembly estimates that betting on sports and horse racing should generate more than $64 million in tax revenue in its first year, and more than $100 million by year four. Another $20 million will come in over that period from licensing fees to online bookies at $1 million a pop.

But it’s important to note where the money will go, and that some of it will come back to the Triad.

A chunk of this revenue will go to its primary source: NC college athletics. Of the tax revenue generated, 20 percent will be split evenly between 13 state state colleges and universities that have underfunded athletic departments — almost $1 million apiece in the first year. They’ll also get an additional $300,000 as a one-time payout during the first year. Of the 13, five are HBCUs, including NC A&T State University and Winston-Salem State University. UNCG is also on the list; UNC-Chapel Hill is not. 

And 30 percent will go to the NC Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund, which funds and recruits sporting events to the state. It’s worth mentioning that youth sports events are the No. 1 tourist attraction in the Triad, bringing us another boon.

A couple million will go to the Dept. of Health & Human Services to create programs for gambling addiction. Another million apiece will go to the NC Amateur Sports nonprofit, which supports youth sports in the state, and the NC Outdoor Advisory Council, a government agency tasked with encouraging children to enjoy being outside, almost like a state-run scouting program that awards badges for participating in various activities.

Naturally, the biggest piece of this new revenue — fully 50 percent — goes to the General Fund, that big pot of money that pays for most of the things we do in the state. The General Fund reached about $25 billion in fiscal year 2023, so this first $30 million won’t really move the needle, and it’s the only segment whose uses are not articulated.

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