Fantasy sports betting bill clears first House hurdle
House lawmakers are once again debating whether to make fantasy sports betting legal in North Carolina, and the odds may be better for supporters this time around.
House Bill 929, which would create a state gaming commission to regulate fantasy sports, the North Carolina Education Lottery and any professional boxing matches held in North Carolina, cleared its first committee vote on Wednesday.
Fantasy sports is a huge business, with sites like FanDuel and Draft Kings spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising alone.
“Fantasy sports has been going on in North Carolina for some time. It will continue to go on with or without this bill,” sponsor Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, told members of the House Commerce committee. “The question before you is, do you want it to continue unregulated, or under the direction of the North Carolina Gaming Commission?”
Legislative efforts to legalize fantasy sports betting have been defeated twice in the past two years because the proposals have exempted the activity from the state’s ban on gambling.
North Carolina law defines gambling as a game for money in which chance outweighs skill, and John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, told lawmakers that fantasy sports is gambling because chance outweighs skill in the end. House Bill 929 would legalize it – again exempting it from the state ban – but it doesn’t create any penalties for bad operators, he said.
“Online sports gambling, and sports wagering in general, is particularly addictive, especially among youth,” Rustin said. “This bill would bring with it a myriad of economic and social problems for individuals, families and communities all across our state.”
The bill would require fantasy game operators to register with the gaming commission, ensure that no one under 18 and no insiders are playing and submit annual financial audits.
Lawmakers also are considering legislation this year to legalize betting on college and professional sports and horse racing at the casinos run by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina. The efforts are driven, in part, by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year allowing states to legalize sports gambling.